Brazilian League Roundup, Feb. 21
Sebastian "El Loco" Abreu and Fabio Ferreira scored second-half
goals as Botafogo beat Vasco 2-0 on Sunday to win the Guanabara
Cup, the first stage of the Rio de Janeiro state championship.
Defender Ferreira broke the deadlock in the 70th minute and Uruguay striker Abreu converted a penalty in the 84th for Botafogo, which will face the winner of the Rio Cup - the tournament's second stage - for the state title.
It is the second consecutive Guanabara Cup title for Botafogo, which is trying to win the Rio state tournament for the first time since 2006.
In the Sao Paulo state championship, Robinho's Santos maintained its lead in the standings by beating Mirassol 2-1, while Palmeiras defeated Sao Paulo 2-0 in its first match without fired coach Muricy Ramalho.
Ferreira scored in front of more than 80,000 fans at Maracana stadium with a header off a corner kick, and Abreu converted from the penalty spot after he was grabbed inside the area by Vasco defender Nilton, who was sent off.
"Sometimes we are not able to play great football, but we can always overcome that by playing with a lot of heart, like we did today," Abreu said.
Vasco had been a man down from the 72nd minute after defender Titi was red carded for a hard foul on Botafogo striker Caio.
Last than a month ago, Vasco had routed Botafogo 6-0 in the first stage of the Guanabara Cup. A four-time national champion which spent last season in the Brazilian league's second division, Vasco hadn't reached a Cup final in six years. It was unbeaten this year until Sunday's defeat.
Botafogo reached the final by eliminating three-time defending Rio champion Flamengo, while Vasco advanced by edging Fluminense on penalties.
Botafogo coach Joel Santana is trying to win his first state title since leaving Flamengo to coach South Africa in 2008. Santana has won Rio titles with all four major clubs in the state - Botafogo, Flamengo, Vasco and Fluminense.
In the Sao Paulo state championship, Santos maintained its lead by beating Mirassol 2-1 in Mirassol.
It was the seventh consecutive win for Santos, which played without youngsters Neymar and Paul Henrique because of suspensions. Robinho, on loan from Manchester City, was substituted in the 73rd.
Santos has 25 points, four more than second-place Santo Andre, which beat Barueri 3-1 in Barueri.
Palmeiras rebounded from a series of disappointing results with a commanding 2-0 win over rival Sao Paulo at Palestra Italia stadium. Striker Robert scored both goals for the four-time national champion, which hadn't won in two matches.
It was Palmeiras' first match since firing renowned coach Ramalho and hiring former player Antonio Carlos Zago, who is starting his coaching career.
Palmeiras is seventh in the standings with 16 points, while Sao Paulo is fifth with 17 points.
All 20 clubs face each other once and the top four reach the semifinal stage, which begins in April.
Third-place Corinthians was held by Rio Branco to a 0-0 home draw on Saturday. The defending champion played without left back Roberto Carlos and striker Ronaldo, who were rested for the team's debut in the Copa Libertadores against Uruguay's Racing on Wednesday.
The Copa Libertadores is the only major competition Corinthians is yet to win.