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Vagner Love leads Flamengo to Rio Cup final
SAO PAULO (AP)—Vagner Love scored a goal in each half Sunday to help Flamengo defeat Vasco da Gama 2-1 in the semifinals of the Rio Cup, the second stage of the Rio de Janeiro state championship.
Flamengo will play Botafogo, which beat Fluminense 3-2 in Saturday’s semifinal. Botafogo won the first stage, the Guanabara Cup, and can automatically secure the overall state title if it beats Flamengo in the Rio Cup next Sunday.
In Sao Paulo, defender Durval scored a 90th-minute winner to give Santos a 3-2 win over Sao Paulo in the first leg of the Sao Paulo state tournament semifinals. Gremio Prudente and Santo Andre will play the other semifinal later Sunday.
Flamengo beat Vasco despite playing without star striker Adriano, who is nursing a back muscle injury.
Love, in Brazil on a loan from CSKA Moscow, scored first at Maracana stadium after a breakaway in the 10th minute, dribbling past goalkeeper Fernando Prass inside the area before striking the ball into the far corner.
Vasco equalized with Thiago Martinelli’s firm header from near the penalty spot following a corner in the 31st, but Love sealed Flamengo’s victory by converting a penalty in the 72nd.
The referee saw a foul by Vasco right back Marcio Careca on defender Leo Moura on the edge of the area, and Love calmly struck the ball into the back of the net.
Flamengo had left back Juan sent off in the 79th, and Vasco’s Martinelli was dismissed in the 90th after fouling Love to receive a second yellow card.
Flamengo needs to beat Botafogo in next Sunday’s Rio Cup final to earn the right to face Botafogo again in a two-leg state final. The winners of each stage face off for the overall title, but Botafogo can clinch it automatically if it also wins the Rio Cup.
“Now it’s all or nothing for the title,” Love said. “Hopefully Adriano will be back on the squad to help us.”
Flamengo, the current Brazilian champion, won the previous three Rio titles in finals against Botafogo, which is trying to win its first state title since 2006.
Botafogo earned its spot in the Rio Cup final with a 3-2 win over Fluminense at Maracana on Saturday.
Uruguay striker Sebastian “El Loco” Abreu scored in the fourth minute to score first for Botafogo, but former Lyon striker Fred hit in the target in the 27th and 30th minutes to put Fluminense ahead. Fred had already missed a penalty in the ninth, hitting the crossbar.
Botafogo midfielder Fahel equalized in the 61st, and striker Caio scored the winner with a low shot from outside the area in the 71st. Fluminense players called for an offside by Argentine striker German Herrera, who was ahead of all defenders but let the ball go through his legs and into the goal.
In the Sao Paulo state tournament, Santos beat Sao Paulo with a late winner after relinquishing a 2-0 first-half lead at Morumbi stadium.
Durval scored with a header in the 90th minute, sealing Santos’ victory ahead of next Sunday’s second leg at Vila Belmiro stadium in Santos. The team made famous by Pele in the 1960s can advance to the final even if it loses by a single goal next weekend.
Santos scored first in the 25th after an own-goal by Sao Paulo left back Junior Cesar. Veteran Santos defender Leo crossed a low shot into the area and Cesar inadvertently deflected the ball into the net with his right foot.
Sao Paulo went a man down in the 35th after striker Marlos fouled Robinho to receive a second yellow card. The team’s chances of recovering appeared to take an even bigger hit when striker Andre added to Santos’ lead in the 40th with a first-time shot from close range after a nice through ball by striker Neymar.
But Sao Paulo came back strong in the second half in front of 35,000 fans at Morumbi stadium. Playmaker Hernanes scored with a low shot from the top of the area in the 53rd, and striker Dagoberto equalized with a header in the 67th after a cross from former AS Roma right back Cicinho.
Santos was able to retake control of the match in the final minutes, and it paid off when Durval headed in a free kick taken by midfielder Madson.
Santos is trying to win its first title since 2007, while Sao Paulo hasn’t won the traditional tournament since 2005. Corinthians, the defending champion, failed to reach the semifinals despite having striker Ronaldo and veteran left back Roberto Carlos in the team.
Santo Andre, which had the second-best campaign before the semifinals behind Santos, came from behind to beat Gremio Prudente 2-1 at Eduardo Jose Farah stadium.
Diego put Prudente ahead in the 41st, but Santo Andre rallied with goals by Branquinho in the 50th and Rodriguinho in the 58th.
Santo Andre, the 2004 Brazilian Cup winner, can advance to the final even if it loses the second match by a one-goal difference next Sunday at home.
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