Damiao hat-trick helps Inter defeat Palmeiras

RIO DE JANEIRO - Leandro Damiao, seen as possibly Brazil's next regular centre-forward, continued his prolific season with a hat-trick which gave Internacional a 3-0 win at Palmeiras in the Brazilian championship on Sunday.

The 22-year-old, who scored his first goal for Brazil last week in a 1-0 win friendly win over Ghana, took his tally to 39 in all competitions since the start of the year.

Damiao opening his account in the 25th minute, controlling the ball with his chest and scoring with a low shot.

He added the second with an angled shot seven minutes from time and completed his hat-trick in stoppage-time, rounding former Brazil goalkeeper Marcos to score.

The win took Inter seventh in the championship with 35 points from 23 games, one ahead of former Brazil and Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari's Palmeiras.

Corinthians (43 points) stayed top despite losing 1-0 to defending champions Fluminense, who this season are in mid-table, with a goal from former Olympique Lyon striker Fred.

Vasco da Gama, whose coach Ricardo Gomes is in hospital recovering from a stroke he suffered during a game two weeks ago, closed the gap to one point with a 1-1 draw at Figueirense.

Sao Paulo, a further point behind in third, lost 1-0 to Gremio.