Brazil: Lucas hat trick lifts Sao Paulo
SAO PAULO (AP) -- Brazil playmaker Lucas scored three goals in Sao Paulo's 4-2 win over Sport in the Brazilian league on Saturday, moving his team closer to a spot in next year's Copa Libertadores.
Fluminense increased its lead to nine points after beating Coritiba at home on Thursday, but Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro has a chance to move closer again when it hosts Flamengo next Wednesday. Each team will have five matches left after that.
Fluminense is closing in on a second title in three years, while Atletico is chasing a first title since 1971.
Clarence Seedorf hurt a muscle after scoring in Botafogo's 4-0 win over last-place Atletico Goianiense in Rio de Janeiro, while Peru striker Paolo Guerrero gave defending champion Corinthians a 1-0 win over Vasco da Gama in Sao Paulo.
Palmeiras stayed in the relegation zone after losing 2-1 to Internacional in Porto Alegre in a match marked by a controversial handball by Argentine striker Hernan Barcos.
Sao Paulo came from behind to defeat Sport in Recife, opening a seven-point advantage over fifth-place Internacional and moving into good position to clinch a berth for the 2013 Copa Libertadores. The victory, Sao Paulo's fifth in six matches, also moved the team to within two points of third-place Gremio, which drew with Bahia 1-1 in Salvador.
The top four teams in the league will play in the Copa Libertadores.
Gilberto opened the scoring for the host in the 15th minute, but Lucas scored in the 28th, 30th and 59th to put Sao Paulo in command at Ilha do Retiro Stadium, which was packed with more than 30,000 fans. Sao Paulo added to the lead with an own goal by defender Rivaldo and Sport got its second with a late penalty kick converted by midfielder Hugo.
"We stayed in control after allowing the first goal, that was key,'' the 20-year-old Lucas said.
One of Brazil's most promising stars and a Paris Saint-Germain player next year, Lucas hadn't scored in 12 matches with Sao Paulo.
The result left Sport in the relegation zone, four points from safety.
At the Engenhao on Saturday, Seedorf scored a 21st-minute goal to help Botafogo to a rout of Atletico Goianiense, but the Dutch midfielder had to leave the match just before halftime because of an apparent right thigh muscle injury. He was apparently crying as he left the field.
Botafogo moved to sixth place and remains in contention for a Copa Libertadores spot next year. It has eight points less than fourth-place Sao Paulo.
Palmeiras lost 2-1 at Internacional in a match marked by a controversial call by the officiating crew in the second half. Barcos used his hand to score what would have been Palmeiras' equalizer in the 62nd and the goal stood for a few minutes until the referee and the linesmen changed their minds and eventually called it off.
Palmeiras players and coaches complained vociferously after the game, saying the referee changed his mind only after the match delegate became aware that replays showed the handball. Palmeiras club directors said the information from the replays was relayed to the officiating crew, and threaten to file a protest with the country's sports tribunal.
"They can't do that,'' Palmeiras coach Gilson Kleina said. "They can't use television images to make a call, it's not the way it works and everybody knows that.''
The result at Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre leaves Palmeiras five points from safety with five matches remaining.
Internacional, led by Uruguay striker Diego Forlan and Argentine midfielders Pablo Guinazu and Andres D'Alessandro, moved to fifth in the standings, also with a chance for a Copa Libertadores spot.
Inter won despite playing without injured Brazil striker Leandro Damiao, who is nursing a muscle injury.
Internacional overcame Vasco da Gama, which lost 1-0 to Corinthians at Pacaembu Stadium. It was the team's fifth loss in a row.
"It's sad to end the season like that,'' Brazil World Cup veteran midfielder Juninho after the result that dropped his team to seventh place.
Corinthians, focused on the Club World Cup in December, moved to eighth after the win behind Guerrero's second-half winner.
No matches will be played on Sunday because of municipal elections.