Cruzeiro retains Brazilian title with two games to spare
Cruzeiro beat Goias 2-1 on Sunday to win its second consecutive Brazilian league title.
Midfielder Ricardo Goulart and striker Everton Ribeiro scored a goal each to secure the team's fourth league title with two rounds still to be played in the championship.
The result in front of nearly 60,000 fans at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte guaranteed the defending champion an insurmountable lead over second-place Sao Paulo, which defeated Santos 1-0 in Cuiaba to remain seven points behind with only six to be won.
Cruzeiro is the first team to win consecutive titles since Sao Paulo won three in a row from 2006-08. Fluminense won two in three years from 2010-2012.
''We all know how hard this is, we've seen so many good teams trying to win a title but very few can do it,'' Cruzeiro forward Willian said. ''We worked hard for it and we overcame all the difficulties that came along the way. This is well-deserved. We have to celebrate a lot.''
Goulart got on the scoresheet with a close-range header in the 13th minute. His fourth goal in as many league matches meant he joined Palmeiras striker Henrique and Fluminense forward Fred as the competition's leading scorers.
Goias equalized with Samuel's right-footed shot from inside the area in the 23rd, but Ribeiro got the winner with a header from near the penalty spot to guarantee the title in the 63rd.
Cruzeiro dominated most of the competition, leading since the sixth round. It had a few setbacks toward the final rounds, but had a lead big enough to comfortably manage its advantage. The team has already reached the 76 points it had at the end of last year's competition, when it also cruised to the title. The team coached by Marcelo Oliveira already has the same 23 wins it achieved in 38 matches last year.
Cruzeiro still has a chance to win the Brazilian Cup title next week, although it has to reverse a 2-0 first-leg loss to rival Atletico Mineiro.
''The Brazilian league title is ours, now we only have one tournament to worry about and we will do everything possible to try to win that one as well,'' Ribeiro said.
Cruzeiro's first national title came in 1996, and the second in 2003, the first time the league began being played with teams facing each other twice. The 2003 triumph came with a team coached by former Brazil and Real Madrid manager Vanderlei Luxemburgo and led by former Brazil and Fenerbahce playmaker Alex.
Last year, Cruzeiro became the first club in history to win the trophy by beating every team at least once.
On Saturday, third-place Internacional scored four minutes into injury time to beat fifth-place Atletico Mineiro 2-1 at the Beira-Rio Stadium, while 18th-place Bahia moved closer to relegation after a 2-1 home loss to Atletico Paranaense in Salvador.
Last-place Criciuma became the first team to be relegated after a 1-1 draw against Flamengo in Sao Luis on Sunday. The demotion came just days after club directors released more than 10 players, including veteran starting playmaker Paulo Baier.