Santos wins 1st leg of Sao Paulo final vs. Guarani
SAO PAULO (AP) -- Neymar scored twice to become one of Santos' top scorers in the post-Pele era on Sunday, helping his club defeat Guarani 3-0 in the first leg of the Sao Paulo state championship final.
In the Rio de Janeiro state tournament, Fluminense came from behind to defeat 10-men Botafogo 4-1 in the final's first leg. Fred scored one of Fluminense's goals with a bicycle kick.
Santos' commanding victory on Sunday at the Morumbi stadium leaves the club in good position to win its third straight title in the Sao Paulo state title, a feat that hasn't happened since Pele was the team's top player in the 1960s. It can win this year's championship even if it loses the return match by two goals next week.
Santos has reached the tournament's final the last four years, dating back to 2009, when Neymar made his professional debut as a 17-year-old.
Neymar, now 20, scored his 103rd and 104th goal with Santos on Sunday, equaling Joao Paulo and Serginho Chulapa for the most goals ever since the Pele era. They are tied for 22nd all-time, all behind the 1,091 goals Pele scored for the traditional Brazilian club.
"I'm happy to reach another important mark with the club, it means a lot to me,'' Neymar said.
Neymar surpassed 100 career goals with Santos last weekend when he scored a hat trick in the team's 3-1 win over Sao Paulo in the tournament's semifinal. He got past Robinho's tally of 94 goals in March, needing 40 fewer games than the AC Milan striker to hit the mark.
Paulo Henrique Ganso, Santos' other promising star, put the team ahead with a left-footed shot from the top of the area in the 43rd minute on Sunday. Neymar increased the lead with a strike into an open net in the 66th, then sealed the victory by controlling the ball inside the area and dribbling past a defender before scoring two minutes into second-half injury time.
"This team knows how to play well in the decisive moments and we did it again against Guarani,'' Ganso said. "But it's not over yet, we have one more game to go and we have to keep our focus.''
Guarani, the 1978 Brazilian champion, is playing in the state final for the first time since 1988, when it lost the title to Corinthians. Guarani upset Luiz Felipe Scolari's Palmeiras in the quarterfinals and eliminated city rival Ponte Preta in the semifinals.
Before the second leg at the Morumbi, Santos will host Bolivar on Thursday in the second leg of their round-of-16 matchup in the Copa Libertadores, a competition the Brazilian club won last year. Bolivar won the first leg 2-1 in Bolivia.
In Rio de Janeiro, Botafogo opened the scoring at the Engenhao stadium with a goal by Renato just nine minutes into the match, but Fluminense rallied to open a significant advantage for the return leg next week.
Fred, who played for Brazil in the 2006 World Cup, equalized for Fluminense with a remarkable goal in the 44th, hitting a bicycle kick from near the penalty spot after a ball headed into the area.
Striker Rafael Sobis scored the go-ahead goal in the 58th and added another in the 61st, and Marcos Junior closed the scoring in the 84th.
Botafogo played a man down from the 57th after right back Lucas was sent off with a second yellow card for a hard foul on Fluminense playmaker Thiago Neves.
Fluminense hasn't won the Rio de Janeiro state title since 2005, although it was runner-up to Flamengo last year. It won this year's Guanabara Cup, the competition's first stage. Botafogo won the Rio Cup, the second stage. Botafogo won the 2010 Rio state title.
Brazil does not follow the European football calendar. Regional tournaments are played in the first few months of the year across the country and the Brazilian league starts in late May.