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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 3, 2006

Inter close gap on Sao Paulo at summit

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Internacional kept the Brazilian championship title race alive when they beat Botafogo 1-0 away with a controversial injury-time penalty to close the gap on leaders Sao Paulo.

Sao Paulo also needed a hotly-disputed penalty, converted by goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni, to draw 1-1 at home to relegation-threatened Ponte Preta in another of Thursday night's games.

Referee Wilson Souza Mendonca left the pitch at the Maracana stadium under a police escort after awarding the penalty which allowed Inter to beat Botafogo.

Furious Botafogo directors ran onto the pitch at the final whistle to insult the official and were joined by some of the players.

The penalty was given after Inter striker Luiz Adriano and Botafogo defender Asprila went for the same ball.

Luiz Adriano went tumbling over, though it was not clear whether he fell because of a push or because he simply tripped over his own legs. Alex, who had hit the post with a first-half free kick, converted.

Botafogo also claimed that Inter defender Fabiano Eller should have been sent off for a first-half tackle on Reinaldo, who went off injured shortly afterwards.

With six matches each to play, Sao Paulo lead with 64 points from 32 games, five ahead of Inter.

Ponte Preta took the lead in the 48th minute when striker Tuto was found unmarked on the edge of the penalty area, rounded the goalkeeper and poked the ball home.

Sao Paulo salvaged a point when they were awarded a penalty for handball in the 74th minute, which Ponte claimed was accidental.

Rogerio sent his opposite number Jean the wrong way for his seventh goal of the championship and the 67th of his career.

Ponte, 17th in the 20-team table in which the bottom four go down, stayed in the relegation zone with 34 points but are only two behind Fluminense and three behind Palmeiras.