Brazilian League Roundup, Apr. 25
Wesley scored two second-half goals as Santos rallied to defeat
Santo Andre 3-2 in the first leg of the Sao Paulo state
championship final on Sunday.
Santos can win its 18th state title even if it loses the second leg next weekend by one goal. The team made famous by Pele in the 1960s has the tiebreaker in the two-game final because it had the best campaign in the first stage.
"We have a bigger advantage now going into the second match," Santos right back Leo said. "But Santo Andre showed its strength and we will need to be careful."
Santo Andre opened the scoring at Pacaembu stadium through Bruno Cesar in the 34th minute, but Santos came back with a goal by Andre in the 58th and scores by Wesley in the 62nd and 70th minutes. Rodriguinho hit Santo Andre's second goal in the 83rd.
Santos is trying to win its first state title since 2007, while Santo Andre has never won the Sao Paulo tournament.
Led by Robinho and young sensations Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso, Santos came into Sunday's match heavily favored, but it was Santo Andre which took control early.
The small team from the outskirts of Sao Paulo had several dangerous scoring opportunities in the first half, and midfielder Cesar fired a low left-footed shot from a free kick past goalkeeper Felipe.
Santos hit back after the break. Andre, who replaced Neymar at halftime after the 18-year-old striker injured an eye, equalized with a close-range header. Wesley struck from a breakaway just four minutes later with a low shot from inside the area.
Wesley scored his second goal in similar fashion, finding the net with another low shot past goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
Santo Andre went a man down in the 75th when defender Toninho received his second yellow card, but striker Rodriguinho got the team's second goal eight minutes later after a shot rebounded off the post.
"Everybody said they would rout us, but we played well and deserved to have scored even more goals," Cesar said.
Both finals are being played at Sao Paulo's Pacaembu stadium, which on Sunday was packed with about 30,000 Santos fans.
Santos came into the two-match final as the favorite after dominating the competition from the beginning, finishing the first stage 10 points ahead of second-place Santo Andre.
Santos is the hottest team in Brazilian football this season, scoring 96 goals in 28 matches, including 59 in its last 12 games.
Robinho is back on loan from Manchester City, but all the attention has been on Neymar and Ganso, with fans and local media wanting coach Dunga to select them for the World Cup.
Corinthians, the defending Sao Paulo champion, failed to reach the semifinals despite having striker Ronaldo and veteran left back Roberto Carlos in the team.
The Rio de Janeiro state championship ended last week after Botafogo defeated Flamengo 2-1 in the Rio Cup final. Botafogo automatically clinched the overall title because it had also won the Guanabara Cup, the competition's first stage.
The Brazilian league starts in two weeks and the state championships are being played across the country.