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Sao Paulo captures lead of state championship

(Xinhua)

14:43, February 06, 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- After five rounds in the 2012 Sao Paulo state championship, Sao Paulo claimed the lead on Sunday with its 3-1 win over Ponte Preta.

Corinthians' draw with Bragantino drops the team from the top while Santos 2-1 loss against Palmeiras was detrimental.

On the road against Ponte Preto, Sao Paulo dominated the match and cruised to victory. Willian Jose scored Sao Paulo's first goal in the 4th minute of play, taking advantage of a turn-over right in front of the net.

Returning from halftime, Ponte Preta tied the match in the 52nd minute when Guilherme headed in a corner kick from Caja.

Sao Paulo reacted quickly and reclaimed the lead in the 65th minute when Lucas drove in a crossed ball from Casemiro. Lucas then assisted in the game-winning goal in the 74th minute, centering the ball for a charging Willian Jose who pushed the ball into the goal.

The result propels Sao Paulo into first place of the running-point tournament with 13 points. The team holds the advantage over second place Paulista and third place Corinthians, also with 13 points, due to its amount of goals scored in the tournament (13). In the next round of play, Sao Paulo will host Comercial on February 9.

In its home match against Bragantino, Corinthians struggled to a 1-1 draw on Sunday. Head coach Tite decided to use largely his reserve players in light of the club's up-coming debut in the 2012 Libertadores Cup on February 15 against Venezuela's Deportiva Tachira.

Bragantino silenced Corinthians' home crowd by scoring in 2nd minute of play. Off a free kick, Romarinho drove a low shot directly at keeper Julio Cesar. The goalie was unable to hold onto the ball, leaving an opportunistic Serginho alone to knock in the game's first goal.

Returning to the second half, Corinthians' Ramirez scored the equalizer in the 51st minute. Dribbling freely down the center of the field, the athlete sized up the defense and drove in a line-drive at the goal, catching keeper Ale off guard and unable to keep the ball from flying into the upper right side of the goal.

The tie drops Corinthians into third place. The team's next match in the state tournament will be on February 8 on the road against Mogi Mirim.

Also on Sunday, Santos received rival Palmeiras. Santos appeared to capture a win early in the second half when star striker and birthday boy Neymar scored his 100th career goal. However, Palmeiras reacted with two goals late in the match to capture the win and frustrate Neymar's celebration.

Palmeiras' win improves the team to fourth place with 11 points. In the next round of play the team will receive XV de Piracicaba on February 8.

Santos loss drops the team into tenth place of the state championship with 6 points. In the next round of play the club will travel to face Botafogo-SP on February 9. The team will then make its appearance in the 2012 Libertadores Cup on February 15 at home against Argentina's The Strongest FC. The team looks to repeat, having won the continental competition in 2011.

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