Cruzeiro edges Inter 2-1, increases lead in Brazil
SAO PAULO (AP) — Bolivia striker Marcelo Moreno scored his Brazilian league-leading 13th goal to help Cruzeiro defeat second-placed Internacional 2-1 on Saturday, increasing its lead to nine points and moving into good position to defend its title.
Midfielder Marquinhos also scored for Cruzeiro in front of more than 51,000 fans at the Mineirao Stadium, while Internacional got on the board with a goal by midfielder Alex. Cruzeiro missed a penalty just five minutes before Internacional’s goal early in the second half, but held on for its 17th victory.
Led by former Brazil goalkeeper Dida and Argentine playmaker Andres D’Alessandro, Inter had won four of its last five matches, including three in a row.
Moreno put Cruzeiro ahead with a shot from inside the area in the 20th and Marquinhos added to the lead by completing a cross from star midfielder Everton Ribeiro in the 34th.
“We needed these points,” Marquinhos said. “It’s a long championship and you never know what can happen in the end. We have to keep fighting.”
Cruzeiro forward Willian missed a penalty in the 51st after Moreno was fouled inside the area, and minutes later Internacional pulled one closer with a remarkable long-range shot by Alex. D’Alessandro had nearly scored when his free kick shot struck the crossbar in the 50th.
“We deserved a better result, especially after how we played in the second half,” former Brazil defender Juan said. “Now things are more difficult, we know Cruzeiro has a very strong team, but we have to keep working hard and keep fighting for the title.”
With 12 rounds left, Cruzeiro reached 56 points, while Internacional remained on 47.
Third-place Sao Paulo moved to 46 points with a 1-0 win at Gremio, which lost for the first time after nine matches to remain fifth in the 20-team standings. The team coached by former Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari hadn’t allowed a goal in more than 850 minutes. Goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni scored the winner by converting a 55th-minute penalty kick in front of more than 40,000 fans at the Arena Gremio in Porto Alegre.
Fifth-place Atletico Mineiro had its four-match winning streak snapped by a 3-1 loss at Criciuma, missing a chance to move closer to the leaders. Seventh-place Fluminense also lost ground after conceding an 83rd-minute equalizer in a 1-1 draw against Bahia in Brasilia. Former Brazil striker Fred scored Fluminense’s goal with a header in the 22nd.
At the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil striker Robinho scored in the first half to give Santos a 1-0 win against Vanderlei Luxemburgo’s Flamengo, which hasn’t won in five matches and is only four points clear of relegation zone.
Botafogo dropped to second-to-last place after a 2-1 loss at Vitoria. The club this week released four of its top players, including former Corinthians striker Emerson Sheik, saying that they were negative influence to the rest of the squad. The move, announced Friday by the team’s president, upset fans and players.
Nearly all games were played Saturday because presidential elections are scheduled for Sunday in Brazil.
On Thursday, eight-time national champion Palmeiras erased a 1-0 first-half deficit to beat Chapecoense 4-1 at the Pacaembu Stadium in Sao Paulo, leaving the relegation zone. Striker Henrique scored a hat trick for Palmeiras, reaching 12 goals in the championship.
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