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Blanco accused in Libertadores brawl
RIO DE JANEIRO, May 12 (Reuters) - Sao Caetano coach Muricy Ramalho has blamed controversial America striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco for the 20-minute brawl that erupted after his side knocked the Mexican team out of the Libertadores Cup.
Players and officials from both teams took part in a pitched battle after Tuesday's 1-1 draw at the Azteca stadium in Mexico City took the Brazilian team through to the quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.
Dozens of fans invaded the pitch and Sao Caetano players were forced to make a mad rush for the changing room in an incident Brazilian media said could have ended in tragedy.
Ramalho told the Brazilian radio station Jovem Pan on Wednesday that Blanco, who was sent off in injury time for elbowing full-back Anderson Lima, stayed on the touchline and came back onto the pitch as soon as the final whistle blew.
'Blanco was to blame for all of this, he's always getting involved,' Ramalho said from Mexico City before Sao Caetano began their journey back to Brazil.
'But as he's an idol here, the Mexican media just pat him on the head.'
Ramalho also accused America players of locking their changing-room from the inside to leave them at the mercy of the fans.
Sao Caetano goalkeeper Silvio Luiz told Brazilian media that he was set upon by Blanco and America's Chilean striker Reinaldo Navia immediately after the game ended.
'They just came at me,' he said.
He denied that Sao Caetano had provoked America's and players by flapping their arms like Eagles -- the America symbol -- as they celebrated their place in the last eight.
'The one who did the provoking was Navia who danced in front of us when he scored in the first leg,' Silvio Luiz said.
In Mexico City, the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) apologised for one of the ugliest incidents in the history of the Azteca stadium, which hosted the 1970 and 1986 World Cup finals and is still one of the most imposing venues in the sport.
Its official website said FMF president Alberto de la Torre had sent letters of apology to Sao Caetano, the South American Football Confederation (CSF) and the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF).
America goalkeeper Adolfo Rios said he regretted the incidents.
'I can say a grave mistake was committed,' he told the Notimex news agency.
'We need to have the personality to know how to win and to know how to lose.'
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