Neymar inspires Santos to ninth straight win

RIO DE JANEIRO - Neymar shone for Santos in their 2-1 win over nine-man Corinthians on Sunday while Brazil forward Robinho left for London for Tuesday's World Cup warm-up against Ireland.

Corinthians had former Brazil left-back Roberto Carlos and right back Moacir sent off in the final 20 minutes with the score already 2-1 as Santos remained four points clear at the top of the Paulista championship standings.

The 18-year-old Neymar, expected as the player to take Robinho's mantle, missed a sixth-minute penalty yet still inspired Santos to their ninth consecutive win in all competitions, scoring one goal and laying on the other.

"I didn't remain downhearted because I missed the penalty. It's something normal in football," Neymar told reporters after the match at Santos' Vila Belmiro ground.

"I carried on playing normally, as if nothing had happened and everything came out right for us."

Neymar opened the scoring with a shot into the top corner of keeper Felipe's goal in the 24th minute from a pass by Robinho's understudy Marquinhos.

He then crossed from the right for 19-year-old Andre to score the second on the hour. Dentinho pulled one back nine minutes later from the rebound when his first attempt hit the bar.

Corinthians, led by a good performance from former Brazil striker Ronaldo, lost momentum in the 70th minute when Moacir received his second yellow card and was sent off for a tackle on Marquinhos.

Roberto Carlos left Corinthians with nine men on the pitch when he was shown a second yellow card for diving. It was his second dismissal in less than a month.

Several Corinthians players including Ronaldo criticised the young Santos team for their showy moves towards the end when they were playing against nine men.

However, Neymar hit back saying: "Dribbling is a resource. When your adversary is coming at you, you have to use that resource."

In the Gaucho (Rio Grande do Sul) championship, one of many state tournaments that open the Brazilian season, Gremio secured a place in the title decider by beating Novo Hamburgo 1-0 in the final of the first stage.

In Minas Gerais state, striker Obina ended a remarkable week with a hat-trick in Atletico Mineiro's 5-2 win over Uberlandia, four days after scoring five in the 7-0 rout of Juventus do Acre in a Copa Brasil match on the Bolivian border.