Santos retains Paulista title

Santos retains Paulista title

Published May. 15, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

Midfielder Arouca and striker Neymar scored a goal each as Santos defeated Corinthians 2-1 to win its second straight Sao Paulo state championship on Sunday.

Arouca opened the scoring with a goal from close range in the 16th minute, and Neymar sealed the victory with a shot from inside the area in the 84th at the Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos.

Substitute midfielder Morais scored Corinthians' lone goal in the 87th, but it was already too late to keep Santos from clinching its 19th state title, and fourth in the last six years.

The teams had played to a scoreless draw in the first leg last weekend at Pacaembu stadium in Sao Paulo.


Filled with young talent, Santos dominated both matches, and it got the win on Sunday despite playing without star midfielder Paulo Henrique Ganso, who sustained a right thigh muscle injury in the first half of last weekend's first leg.

Neymar, the 19-year-old striker touted as Brazil's next superstar, sobbed as he embraced Ganso after the final whistle in front of nearly 15,000 fans who packed the Vila Belmiro in the coastal city of Santos.

''Three titles in three years as a professional, that means a lot to me, I'm moved,'' said Neymar, who also helped Santos win last year's Brazilian Cup and led Brazil to the Under-20 South American championship earlier this year.

He scored his goal on a counterattack near the end of Sunday's match, firing a low right-foot shot that got past Corinthians goalkeeper Julio Cesar and trickled over the line.

''He is the man, there is nothing else to say about him,'' the 21-year-old Ganso said of Neymar.

Arouca, returning to action after several weeks nursing an injury, scored the first goal from near the six-yard line, completing a cross by midfielder Ze Eduardo.

It was the second Sao Paulo state title for coach Muricy Ramalho, who had also won it with Sao Caetano in 2004. Ramalho has won four of the last five Brazilian league titles, three with Sao Paulo and one with Fluminense last year.

''He changed everything, he deserves a lot of credit,'' defender Leo said of Ramalho, who was hired about a month ago and has coached the team only in 11 matches.

''We gave the players a little more confidence and made the defense more solid,'' Ramalho said. ''With the players we have on offense, we know they will make a difference if we can hold our ground on defense.''

Sunday's final came in the middle of a series of decisive matches for Santos, which is the only Brazilian team left in the Copa Libertadores. Santos, which also has former Brazil midfielder Elano in the squad, just returned from a long trip to Colombia after beating Once Caldas 1-0 in the first leg of their quarterfinal matchup. The return game is Wednesday in Santos.

Corinthians, meanwhile, was focused solely on the regional competition as it won't play again until the Brazilian league starts next weekend.

''We played even with them in both matches,'' Corinthians coach Tite said. ''It could have gone either way, but all we can do now is congratulate Santos.''

Corinthians, which remains the most successful team in the state tournament with 26 titles, had beaten Santos at the Vila Belmiro two years ago in the final, when retired striker Ronaldo was the team's biggest star.

The Sao Paulo championship is one of the most traditional in Brazil, along with the one in Rio.

Ronaldinho's Flamengo won the Rio de Janeiro state title two weeks ago after beating Vasco on penalties in the final of the Rio Cup, the tournament's second stage. It automatically clinched the overall title because it had also won the Guanabara Cup, the competition's first stage.

Also Sunday, Internacional defeated Gremio 5-4 on penalties to win the Rio Grande do Sul state championship, the team's first title since the recent arrival of former Brazil star Paulo Roberto Falcao as coach. Cruzeiro defeated Atletico Mineiro 2-0 to win the Minas Gerais state championship.


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