Fluminense one game away from drop

Defending champion Fluminense will enter the last round of the Brazilian league in the relegation zone after Vasco da Gama and Coritiba won their matches on Sunday.

Fluminense, in danger of becoming the first Brazilian champion to be demoted, drew Atletico Mineiro 2-2 at the Maracana Stadium on Saturday and needs other results to go its way next weekend to stay in the first division in 2014.

Vasco da Gama beat already demoted Nautico 2-0 at the Maracana, while Coritiba defeated Botafogo 2-1 in Curitiba. Vasco, a four time Brazilian champion, will also enter the final round in relegation zone.

No matter what happens next Sunday, either Vasco or Fluminense, two of the country’s most traditional clubs, will play in the second division next year.

The weekend matches again were marked by players protesting the conditions for players in Brazilian football. Players sat on the ground, crossed their arms and exchanged passes back and forth at the start of matches to show their dissatisfaction with the national federation. The players had threatened a strike this weekend because of a pay dispute involving Nautico and its squad, but a deal was reached on Friday.

The final round next weekend will be played with six teams still in danger of relegation – Fluminense, Vasco da Gama, Coritiba, Criciuma, Internacional and Portuguesa. Nautico and Ponte Preta, which is in the final of the Copa Sudamericana, have already been demoted.

Vasco is the first team inside relegation zone with 44 points, one more than Fluminense. Coritiba is just ahead with 45 points, while Criciuma has 46 and Internacional and Portuguesa have 47 each. The bottom four clubs will drop to the second division.

Fluminense, which also won the league title in 2010, was the only team among those fighting against relegation to lose this weekend.

The Rio de Janeiro club got into trouble after allowing an 83rd-minute equalizer to Atletico Mineiro, which is already focused on the Club World Cup later this month.

Atletico scored through Diego Tardelli in the 22nd before Fluminense equalized through Gum in the 37th and moved ahead when Biro-Biro scored in the 54th. However, Alecsandro equalized with a header late in the game.

Fluminense almost was relegated in 2009, but it won six of its last seven matches to just remain in the first division. It was relegated to the second division for the first time in the late 1990s. The team will play at Bahia in the final round this year.

Vasco da Gama, which played in the second division in 2009, gained some relief by defeating Nautico with goals by Edmilson in the seventh minute and Bernardo in the 88th at a packed Maracana. Only a victory against third-place Atletico Paranaense will give Vasco a real chance to escape demotion.

Coritiba moved out of relegation zone by beating Botafogo with goals by Deivid in the 40th and Alex in the 69th. Botafogo’s lone goal came in the final minutes with Bruno Mendes.

Criciuma beat Sao Paulo 1-0 at home, while Portuguesa defeated Ponte Preta 2-0 in Campinas. Bahia escaped relegation with a last-minute 2-1 win at champion Cruzeiro, which had already clinched its third Brazilian league title in advance. Cruzeiro players were officially handed the trophy on Sunday at a nearly packed Mineirao Stadium.

Local media reported that dozens of fans were detained because of fan violence in and outside the stadium in Belo Horizonte.

Internacional, with a squad that includes Uruguay striker Diego Forlan and Argentine forwards Andres D’Alessandro and Ignacio Scocco, became in danger of demotion after drawing Corinthians 0-0 on Saturday, a result that extended the team’s winless streak to four matches.

Atop the standings, second-place Gremio beat fourth-place Goias 1-0 with a goal by Argentine striker Hernan Barcos in Porto Alegre. Atletico Paranaense lost 2-1 at Santos.

Fifth-place Botafogo and sixth-place Vitoria, which beat Flamengo 4-1 in Salvador, still have chances of securing a place in next year’s Copa Libertadores.