Holders Fluminense lose league opener
Striker Dagoberto and young playmaker Lucas scored a goal each as Sao Paulo defeated defending champion Fluminense 2-0 in the first round of the Brazilian league on Sunday.
Flamengo beat Avai 4-0 with a goal by Ronaldinho on Saturday, while title-favorite Santos failed to get past a 1-1 home draw with Internacional.
The 20-team competition is Brazil's most important and will be played until December with each team facing each other twice, home and away. Brazil does not follow the European football calendar and teams play regional tournaments in each of the country's 26 states in the first few months of the year until the start of the Brazilian league.
Dagoberto opened the scoring for Sao Paulo with a right-footer from inside the area in the 33rd minute, and midfielder Lucas sealed the win by dribbling past two defenders before finding the net in the 47th at the Sao Januario stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Sao Paulo got the win despite the absence of former Sevilla and Brazil striker Luis Fabiano, who had to undergo tendon surgery on Friday and had his debut delayed. Former Brazil and Barcelona star Rivaldo entered the match in the final minutes after recently publicly complaining that he was being ''humiliated'' by not getting a chance to play.
''What happened in the past is in the past,'' Rivaldo said. ''There is nothing better than start the league with an important win like this one to put the problems behind us.''
Sao Paulo was coming off a disappointing elimination to Avai in the Brazilian Cup.
Led by Argentine playmaker Dario Conca, Fluminense played poorly and created few scoring opportunities, and was booed by fans after the match. Fluminense is without coach Muricy Ramalho, who led the team to its first national title in 26 years in 2010 and now is with Santos.
Sao Paulo's Rogerio Ceni, the world's most prolific goalkeeper with 101 goals scored, had to be substituted early in the second half because of an apparent knee injury.
Also Sunday, Luiz Felipe Scolari's Palmeiras defeated Botafogo 1-0 in Sao Jose do Rio Preto despite the absence of injured Chile playmaker Jorge Valdivia, while former Sporting striker Liedson scored to help Corinthians rally to a 2-1 victory over Gremio at Olimpico stadium in Porto Alegre.
Figueirense returned to the top flight with a 1-0 win over title-favorite Cruzeiro in Florianopolis, while Coritiba - also recently promoted from the second division - lost to Atletico Goianiense by the same score in Curitiba.
On Saturday, Ronaldinho scored his first goal in more than two months to help Flamengo thrash Avai in Macae. The former Brazil star hadn't scored since March 10 in the Rio de Janeiro championship and had been jeered by some fans because of poor performances recently.
''I couldn't have asked for a better return to the Brazilian league,'' said Ronaldinho, who is playing in Brazil again for the first time after 10 seasons in European football. ''The focus is on winning the title, it's a trophy I haven't won it yet.''
Argentine midfielder Dario Bottinelli also scored for Flamengo, Brazil's most popular club and the 2009 national champion.
Santos' second stringers drew Internacional 1-1 at the Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos. Coach Ramalho rested the regular starters ahead of the team's match against Paraguay's Cerro Porteno in the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday.
Santos is the only Brazilian team left in the Latin American competition and is one of the main favorites to win the Brazilian league title thanks to the young talent of striker Neymar and playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso, as well as the experience of recently signed Ramalho, whose teams have won four of the last five league titles.
Also Saturday, Vasco defeated Ceara 3-1 in a match in which both teams rested regular starters ahead of the semifinals of the Brazilian Cup. Atletico Mineiro routed Atletico Paranaense 3-0 in Minas Gerais.
Results from the first round of the Brazilian first-division football championship (home teams listed first):
Flamengo 4, Avai 0
Ceara 1, Vasco 3
Atletico Mineiro 3, Atletico Paranaense 0
Santos 1, Internacional 1
Palmeiras 1, Botafogo 0
Gremio 1, Corinthians 2
Coritiba 0, Atletico Goianiense 1
Figueirense 1, Cruzeiro 0
Fluminense 0, Sao Paulo 2
America 2, Bahia 1
Saturday, May 28
Botafogo vs. Santos
Internacional vs. Ceara
Avai vs. Atletico Mineiro
Sao Paulo vs. Figueirense
Sunday, May 29
Corinthians vs. Coritiba
Bahia vs. Flamengo
Atletico Paranaense vs. Gremio
Cruzeiro vs. Palmeiras
Vasco vs. America
Atletico Goianiense vs. Fluminense