Ronaldo leads Corinthians to key win
SAO PAULO (AP) -- Ronaldo scored a goal in each half to lead Corinthians to a 3-1 win over Santos in the first leg of the Sao Paulo state championship final on Sunday.
In Rio de Janeiro, two-time defending champion Flamengo and Botafogo drew 2-2 in the first leg of that state's final.
Ronaldo's seventh and eighth goals in his last nine matches helped Corinthians earn a significant advantage ahead of the second leg. Corinthians can win its record 26th state title even if it loses next week's match at Pacaembu stadium by a two-goal difference.
Ronaldo scored his first goal in the 25th minute after receiving a long pass just outside the area and firing a low left-footed shot past charging Santos goalkeeper Fabio Costa.
He found the net again with a remarkable goal in a breakaway in the 76th, dribbling past a defender outside the penalty box and hitting a delicate lob shot over Fabio Costa.
"The most important thing today was the result,'' said Ronaldo, who scored the decisive goal in the semifinal against Sao Paulo last week. "It gives us a very good advantage ahead of the second match.''
Ronaldo, a three-time FIFA world player of the year, spent more than a year sidelined after sustaining the third serious knee injury of his career in February 2008.
Defender Chicao had opened the scoring for Corinthians with a well-struck free kick in the 10th, while Santos - the 2006 and 2007 state champion - got on the board with left back Triguinho in the 60th after his cross deflected on Corinthians goalkeeper Felipe and went into the net.
It was Corinthians' first win against Santos at Vila Belmiro - the stadium where Pele made history with Santos in the early 1960s - since 2005. Santos had won three matches and drew one in the coastal city. Pele was at the stadium on Sunday.
Corinthians and Santos are contesting the Sao Paulo state championship for the first time in 25 years, when Santos came out on top in the 1984 tournament.
Corinthians, a four-time national champion, entered the final with the tiebreaker advantage because it had a better campaign in the traditional tournament.
In Rio, defender Juan opened the scoring for Flamengo at Maracana stadium with a penalty kick in the 19th, and defender Juninho equalized for Botafogo with a booming free kick in the 37th, firing a low shot that went through the wall.
Botafogo moved ahead just before the end of the first half with a header by striker Reinaldo, and Flamengo pulled even late in the match when midfielder Willian's shot deflected off Botafogo defender Emerson and went into the net in the 84th.
It was the second straight match between the clubs, who met last week in the final of the Rio Cup, the first stage of the Rio championship. Flamengo won that match 1-0 - with another own goal by defender Emerson - to set up the state final against Botafogo, which won the Guanabara Cup, the competition's first stage.
Another draw next Sunday will send the final into a penalty shootout.
Brazil's most popular club and a five-time national champion, Flamengo is trying to win its third Rio title in a row. It defeated Botafogo the last two years.
In Belo Horizonte, Cruzeiro routed rival Atletico Mineiro 5-0 behind two goals each by defenders Jonathan and Leonardo Silva. It was the team's 10th win in 11 matches against Atletico. The other match was a draw.
A two-time Copa Libertadores champion, Cruzeiro can win the Minas Gerais state title even if it loses the second leg by four goals next Sunday.
Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.