Santos close in on Paulista final

RIO DE JANEIRO - A last-minute header by defender Durval gave Santos a 3-2 away win over 10-man Sao Paulo in the first leg of their Paulista championship semi-final on Sunday.

Vagner Love scored twice as Flamengo beat Vasco da Gama 2-1 at the Maracana to reach the final of the second phase of the Carioca as the state championships that open the Brazilian season approach their climax.

Paulista (Sao Paulo) title favourites Santos went ahead when full-back Leo crossed from the left and Junior Cesar's attempted clearance ended in the net for an own goal.

Matters worsened for Sao Paulo when midfielder Marlos kicked Robinho, a second bookable offence, and was sent off with almost an hour still to play.

Santos took a 2-0 half time lead when 18-year-old forward Neymar found Andre with a fine through ball and the striker beat keeper Rogerio Ceni from close range.

Sao Paulo brought on former Real Madrid and AS Roma full-back Cicinho and the second half substitution had the desired effect as they gained more possession and put Santos on the defensive.

Midfielder Hernanes pulled one back eight minutes into the second half and Sao Paulo deservedly equalised with a header by Dagoberto from Cicinho's cross.

The game looked settled but Durval headed home Madson's free kick from the left in the last minute.

"We have the advantage but we're not going to change our attacking game, even more so playing at home we're not going think of a draw, we'll go out to win," said Robinho, on loan from Manchester City until August.


Brazilian champions Flamengo, still without Brazil striker Adriano who is nursing a back injury, will meet Botafogo in the final of the second phase of the Carioca.

Vagner Love scored in each half, his second a penalty, and Thiago Martinelli pulled one back with a header from a corner.

Botafogo, who have already secured a place in the Carioca final by winning the first phase, also reached the final of the second with a 3-2 win over Fluminense on Saturday.

If they beat Flamengo in next Sunday's second-phase decider, they will become the first team since 1998 to win both stages of the championship.

A Flamengo second-phase victory would send them and Botafogo into their fourth consecutive two-leg title decider. Flamengo won the last three.

In the Gaucho championship in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, Internacional are on course to meet arch-rivals Gremio, winners of the first phase, for the title.

Inter beat Ypiranga 2-0 to reach the second-phase final against Pelotas.

The state championships end this month and the Brazilian championship kicks off on May 8.

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