- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

SAO PAULO (AP) - Two-time defending champion Cruzeiro got off to a slow start in the Brazilian league on Sunday, conceding a late goal in 1-0 loss to Corinthians.

Late substitute striker Angel Romero of Paraguay found the net by redirecting a shot in front of goal in the 82nd minute at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba, spoiling Cruzeiro’s debut in the country’s most important competition.

Cruzeiro, trying to become the first team to win three-straight national titles since Sao Paulo from 2006-08, was the home team but had to play away from Belo Horizonte because it is serving a suspension for fan violence.

Both teams fielded a predominantly second-string lineup ahead of decisive matches in the round of 16 of the Copa Libertadores this week.

Some of the tournament’s top title-contenders rested regular starters in the opening round because of the Copa Libertadores, Latin America’s top club competition. Sao Paulo, Internacional and Atletico Mineiro are also playing in the tournament’s knockout round.

Sao Paulo, last year’s runner-up in the Brazilian league, defeated Flamengo 2-1 at its Morumbi Stadium with goals by former Brazil strikers Luis Fabiano and Alexandre Pato in the 75th and 80th minutes, while Flamengo got on the board thanks to forward Everton in the 87th.

In the debut of the league’s 11 a.m. start local time, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Gremio conceded a last-minute goal in a 3-3 draw against Ponte Preta at the Arena Gremio. Ponte Preta, recently promoted from the second division, twice came from behind to escape with the draw in Porto Alegre.

Gremio is one of the many teams struggling financially entering this year’s Brazilian league. Like several other teams, it had to cut costs after years of overspending on high salaries and expensive transfers.

In other matches on Sunday, playmaker Diego Souza scored twice in Sport’s 4-1 rout of Figueirense at the Ilha do Retiro in Recife, while Atletico Paranaense defeated Internacional 3-0 at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba.

Vasco da Gama, coming off the title in the Rio de Janeiro state championship, couldn’t manage more than a 0-0 draw against Goias at the Sao Januario Stadium in its return to the top flight, while newcomer Avai held Sao Paulo state champion Santos to a 1-1 home draw in Florianopolis. Brazil striker Robinho scored Santos’ goal.

Regional championships were played in the first months of the year in Brazil, with the Brazilian league running through the beginning of December.

On Saturday, Fluminense beat recently promoted Joinville 1-0 thanks to an 88th-minute goal by defender Vinicius at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, while Palmeiras striker Rafael Marques scored five minutes into second-half injury time to salvage a 2-2 home draw against Atletico Mineiro’s second-stringers at the Allianz Parque in Sao Paulo.

Traditional Rio de Janeiro club Botafogo debuted in the second division with a 1-0 win at Paysandu.


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