Sao Paulo, Nov 5: Fred scored his league-leading 17th goal of the season as Fluminense held Sao Paulo to a 1-1 home draw on Sunday and increased its lead over Atletico Mineiro in the Brazilian championship.
Fluminense moved closer to its second title in three years by opening a nine-point advantage with four rounds left. Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro had its chances significantly diminished after a 1-0 loss to Coritiba.
Palmeiras, the Brazilian team with the most national titles, is in serious danger of relegation after being held 2-2 at home by Botafogo. Argentina striker Hernan Barcos scored both goals for Palmeiras, while Uruguay midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro netted one of Botafogo's goals and set up the other.
Argentina forward Juan Martinez scored in Corinthians 2-0 win over Atletico Goianiense, which was demoted to the second division with the loss.
On Saturday, Neymar scored three goals and set up the other in Santos' 4-0 routing of Cruzeiro, receiving standing ovations even from Cruzeiro fans.
Fluminense added another point to its lead by containing fourth-place Sao Paulo at the Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo.
Luis Fabiano opened the scoring for Sao Paulo in the 50th after a mistake by Fluminense defender Gum, who mishit the ball while trying to pass it back to goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri. The striker got to the ball and easily dribbled past Cavalieri to find the open net.
Fred equalized when Sao Paulo defender Rafael Toloi erred in the 68th, allowing forward Samuel to steal the ball away from him and set up Fred for the easy goal from near the penalty spot. The striker has one goal more than Luis Fabiano.
Fluminense won despite playing without former Chelsea and Portugal playmaker Deco, who is nursing a right thigh muscle injury. Sao Paulo, which moved closer to securing a Copa Libertadores spot in 2013, had won five of its past six matches. The top four teams will play in the Copa Libertadores in 2013.
Third-place Gremio won 1-0 at home against Ponte Preta thanks to a last-minute goal at the Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre on Saturday. Striker Andre Lima scored the winner with a header from a corner taken by World Cup veteran playmaker Ze Roberto. Gremio, coached by Vanderlei Luxemburgo, is 10 points off the lead but also has virtually secured a Copa Libertadores berth.
On Saturday, Cruzeiro fans chanted Neymar's name and applauded the striker after he scored his hat trick in Santos' 4-0 win at the Independencia Stadium in Belo Horizonte. Neymar scored in the 11th, 35th and 83rd minutes and gave the pass for Felipe Anderson's goal in the 53rd.
“I'm moved after seeing this type of reaction from Cruzeiro fans today,” said Neymar, who has 12 goals in this year's Brazilian league. “I will keep this with me to the rest of my life. Today I can consider Cruzeiro my second home and I have to thank all the fans for their support.”
The result snapped Santos' three-match winless streak, but last year's Copa Libertadores champion is only ninth in the 20-team standings.
Eight-time national champion Palmeiras moved closer to relegation after the draw with Botafogo on Sunday. Barcos scored the equalizer in stoppage time, improving his goal tally to 13. He has a total 27 goals in 2012.
Uruguay midfielder Lodeiro scored Botafogo's first goal and set up the second. Coming off three straight wins, Botafogo was without 36-year-old Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf, who also is nursing a right thigh muscle. The team is fifth in the standings.
Palmeiras is 18th in the standings, seven points from safety with four rounds to go. It will face leader Fluminense at home in the next round.
Television images showed some disgruntled Palmeiras fans trying to invade the pitch after the match and police had to use rubber bullets to contain them. Local media said two police officers were slightly injured.
Palmeiras is still trying to annul its 2-1 loss to Internacional because the referee allegedly used TV images as the basis for his decision to disallow what could have been a second-half equalizer. A sports tribunal will hear the case on Thursday.
Atletico Goianiense became the first team relegated after the home loss to Corinthians, which is focused on the Club World Cup in December and is only eighth in the standings. Martinez scored Corinthians' first goal.
On Saturday, Flamengo moved farther from demotion with a 1-0 win over Figueirense in Volta Redonda. Hernane scored Flamengo's 73rd-minute winner. Figueirense, in
second-to-last place and virtually relegated, had two first first-half goals disallowed after controversial offside calls.
The bottom four clubs are be demoted. Bahia, the first team out of relegation zone, edged Portuguesa 1-0, while Sport—four points from safety—defeated seventh-place Vasco da Gama 3-0 at Sao Januario Stadium, handing the Rio de Janeiro club its sixth loss in a row. Vasco playmaker Juninho, who played for Brazil in the 2006 World Cup, was seen making obscene gestures to Sport fans during the match.