Weakened Cruzeiro start Brazilian title defense with win against Bahia
Marcelo Moreno scored in the 90th minute to help a second-string Cruzeiro lineup beat Bahia 2-1 on Sunday to start its defense of the Brazilian league title.
The competition got under way despite ongoing lawsuits filed by teams still trying to be included in the first division. Portuguesa and Icasa want to reverse sports tribunal decisions related to last year’s tournament.
Portuguesa was relegated after being stripped of four points for using a suspended player in the last round, while second-division club Icasa claims that Figueirense – one of the four teams promoted last year – used a player who was incorrectly registered.
Portuguesa abandoned its match in the opening round of the second division on Friday because it had a court order allowing it to play in the top flight, but the Brazilian federation overturned the ruling on Saturday. Portuguesa officials said Sunday the team is likely to give up on its bid for reinstatement to the first division after the latest legal defeat.
All 20 first-division matches were played as scheduled over the weekend.
Moreno’s winner for Cruzeiro at the Fonte Nova Arena in the northeastern city of Salvador came with a firm header from near the penalty spot.
Midfielder Nilton opened the scoring for Cruzeiro with a header in the 63rd before Bahia equalized via striker Anderson Talisca’s penalty kick in the 80th.
Cruzerio coach Marcelo Oliveira used second-stringers because the regular starters were coming off difficult matches in the second round of the Copa Libertadores and the final of the Minas Gerais state tournament, which it won against Ronaldinho’s Atletico Mineiro. Goalkeeper Fabio was the only regular starter on the field on Sunday.
Atletico Mineiro opened the championship with a 0-0 home draw against Corinthians. Sao Paulo beat Botafogo 3-0 at the Morumbi stadium with two assists by former AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato, while eight-time champion Palmeiras, coming off relegation last year, scored two goals in the final seven minutes to rally for a 2-1 win at Criciuma.
Also Sunday, Santos had a 1-1 draw with Sport, while Flamengo was held to a 0-0 draw by Goias in a home match at Brasilia.
Atletico Paranaense beat Gremio 1-0 in a match played away from the team’s home base as punishment for fan fighting in the game against Vasco da Gama in the final round of last year’s championship. Vasco da Gama, which drew America 1-1 in its second-division match on Saturday, had to play in an empty Sao Januario stadium because of the fan violence.
Fluminense, which would have been relegated if Portuguesa hadn’t lost its points in the sports tribunal, opened with a 3-0 win over Figueirense on Saturday. Brazil striker Fred scored one of the goals at the Maracana stadium.
The first goal of the championship was scored by Chilean midfielder Charles Aranguiz in the fifth minute of Internacional’s 1-0 win over Vitoria. Argentine playmaker Andres D’Alessandro set up Aranguiz’s winner at the newly renovated Beira-Rio stadium in the southern city of Porto Alegre.
There was a minute of silence before every match in honor of popular sports announcer Luciano do Valle, who died of a heart attack on his way to the Atletico Mineiro-Corinthians match. He was 66.