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May 19, 2013

Corinthians claims 27th Sao Paulo title

SAO PAULO -- Corinthians won the Sao Paulo state championship for the 27th time and kept Santos from lifting the trophy for the fourth straight year after a 1-1 draw in the second leg on Sunday.

Corinthians won its first title since 2009, 3-2 on aggregate. Led by young Brazil striker Neymar, Santos needed a victory at its Vila Belmiro Stadium to have a chance of clinching the title again.

Cicero opened the scoring for Santos in the 26th minute, but Corinthians playmaker Danilo equalized two minutes later to leave his team in position to celebrate winning the title.

Corinthians is the most successful club in Sao Paulo state and now it has five more titles than Palmeiras and Sao Paulo, which have 22 each. Santos was trying to win the trophy for the 21st time. It has made the final in every tournament since Neymar started playing regularly in the senior squad in 2009.

The title comes as consolation for Corinthians, which was coming off a disappointing home loss to Argentina's Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores, a competition it won last year.

Needing to win, Santos came out attacking and midfielder Cicero scored with a volley from the penalty spot after the ball was headed across the area by Santos defender Durval following a free kick.

Corinthians equalized through Danilo's close-range shot after goalkeeper Rafael had made a great save off midfielder Paulinho's shot in front of goal. The ball rebounded to Danilo, who found the open net.

Santos continued to attack but it was Corinthians which had some of the most significant chances the rest of the match, hitting the goal-frame three times.

Neymar, reportedly sought after some of Europe's top clubs, had a lackluster performance in the first leg and couldn't do enough to help his team overcome the deficit on Sunday.

A few hundred Santos fans got into a confrontation with police outside the stadium before the match, but no serious injuries were reported.

In Minas Gerais, former two-time FIFA player of the year Ronaldinho converted a penalty in the 78th to secure the state title for Atletico Mineiro, which won the first leg 3-0 last week. Striker Dagoberto scored twice for Cruzeiro with penalties in the 18th and 34th minutes. It was Atletico's second straight title win in a row.

Regional championships are played in the first few months of the year in Brazil, and the national league starts in May.

Clarence Seedorf's Botafogo won the Rio de Janeiro state title two weeks ago.

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