Corinthians captures win at Santos
Corinthians picked up an important 1-0 away victory against defending champion Santos in the first leg of their Copa Libertadores semifinal on Wednesday.
The Brazilian champion needs only a draw in the second leg next week to reach the final for the first time in its history.
Striker Emerson scored the sole goal with a well-placed shot from just inside the area in the 28th minute, finding the right-upper corner of the net, beyond the outstretched arms of Santos goalkeeper Rafael.
Emerson was sent off in the 77th after a hard foul on Santos striker Neymar, who was mostly ineffective at the match at Vila Belmiro stadium in the coastal city of Santos.
The match was interrupted for nearly 20 minutes after the 83rd because of a power outage, and 10-man Corinthians was able to hold on to the victory when play resumed.
''It was a tough win,'' Corinthians midfielder Paulinho said. ''But it's not over yet, we have 90 minutes left and we have to stay focused.''
Marking well from the start, Corinthians tried to control the pace of the match and kept Santos from creating too many dangerous opportunities. But Santos picked up the pace after trailing and began to put pressure on the Corinthians defense.
World Cup veteran midfielder Elano and striker Borges both had good chances, as did defender Durval and right back Juan in the second half. Corinthians goalkeeper Cassio had a few difficult saves to keep Corinthians with the advantage.
One of Neymar's few chances came with a header that missed wide near the end.
''It's not every day that things go your way, it happens'' Neymar said. ''Only Santos played today, but they were able to score with a long-range shot.''
Santos lost despite the return of playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on May 25 but was able to recover in time. He initially wasn't expected to play, but practiced during the week and was included in the starting lineup on Wednesday.
The Copa Libertadores is the only significant title Corinthians is yet to win. Among the popular club's triumphs is the inaugural FIFA Club World Cup in 2000, although it only played because it was invited as the host team.
Led by Neymar, Santos won its third Copa Libertadores last year, the first since the Pele era in the 1960s.
The other semifinal will be played on Thursday, when six-time champion Boca Juniors hosts Universidad de Chile in Buenos Aires.
Santos: Rafael, Henrique, Edu Dracena, Durval, Juan, Adriano, Arouca (Felipe Anderson, 82), Elano (Borges, 46), Paulo Henrique Ganso, Neymar, Alan Kardec (Dimba, 90).
Corinthians: Cassio, Alessandro, Chicao, Leandro Castan, Fabio Santos, Ralf, Paulinho, Danilo, Alex (Wallace, 83), Jorge Henrique, Emerson.