Brazilian League Roundup, Feb. 14

Veteran midfielder Giovanni scored a late winner and Robinho’s

Santos defeated Rio Claro 2-1 to regain the lead of the Sao Paulo

state championship on Sunday.

In Rio de Janeiro, Vasco defeated Fluminense on penalties

Saturday to reach the final of the Guanabara Cup, the first stage

of the Rio state championship. Flamengo will face Botafogo in the

other semifinal on Wednesday.

Robinho, who had scored the winner against rival Sao Paulo

last week, failed to capitalize on a few scoring chances in his

second match with Santos after returning to Brazilian football on a

loan from Manchester City.

The victory gave Santos 19 points from eight matches, two

points ahead of second-place Botafogo and four more than Santo

Andre and Corinthians. The top four clubs will reach the semifinal

stage of the traditional regional competition.

Boosted by more than 30,000 fans at Pacaembu stadium in Sao

Paulo, Santos pressured from the start but it was Rio Claro, a team

lying second to last in the standings, which opened the scoring

with a close-range goal by striker Jackson in the 39th minute.

Substitute forward Andre equalized in the 79th after Rio

Claro goalkeeper Sidney failed to stop a shot by Santos striker

Neymar, and Giovanni gave Santos the win with an 88th-minute header

after being set up by Neymar.

It was the first goal for the 38-year-old Giovanni since he

returned to Santos this season to end his career. The former Brazil

and Barcelona player scored after coming on in the 72nd minute.

Rio Claro played with a man down from the 79th minute after

defensive midfielder Ernando received his second yellow card

following a foul on Neymar.

Santos’ match was the only one played Sunday. All the other

matches took place Saturday because of Carnival celebrations across

Brazil.

Defending champion Corinthians drew Portuguesa 1-1 at Caninde

stadium in Sao Paulo, while seventh-place Palmeiras also was held

to a 1-1 draw with Botafogo in Ribeirao Preto.

Fifth-place Sao Paulo beat Ituano 1-0 in Itu with a

first-half penalty converted by goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni, who

reached his 87th career goal.

In Rio de Janeiro, Vasco edged Fluminense on penalties after

a 0-0 draw in regulation time on Saturday at Maracana stadium.

Neither team missed a penalty until substitute Fluminense

forward Alan struck the crossbar to give Vasco the win in front of

nearly 40,000 fans.

Fluminense had played slightly better but failed to

capitalize on its numerous scoring chances, several of them missed

by star striker Fred.

Vasco will face either defending Rio champion Flamengo or

defending Guanabara Cup winner Botafogo, which will play the second

semifinal on Wednesday.

The winner of the Guanabara Cup will face the winner of the

Rio Cup – the tournament’s second stage – for the state title.

Vasco, a four-time national champion which spent last season

in the Brazilian league’s second division, hadn’t reached a Cup

final in six years.

Also Saturday, America general manager Romario fired former

Brazil teammate Bebeto as the team’s coach after a 2-1 loss to

Olaria in a consolation tournament.

“I respect his decision,” Bebeto told GloboEsporte.com

Saturday “Our friendship will remain above any professional

situation between us.”

The attacking duo formed by Romario and Bebeto helped Brazil

win the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

In his debut as a coach, Bebeto led America to three

victories, one draw and four losses.