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By ESPN Staff

Palmeiras avoid relegation despite defeat

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Former South American champions Palmeiras escaped relegation despite losing 4-1 at home to Internacional on Sunday.

Palmeiras were saved when Ponte Preta lost 3-0 at Goias to join Fortaleza and Santa Cruz, already relegated, in the Brazilian championship's second division next year.

Sao Caetano became the fourth team to go down when they lost 2-0 at home to Parana.

At the other end of the table, goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni scored from one of his trademark free kicks as Sao Paulo, who clinched the title last week, celebrated with a 2-0 win over Cruzeiro.

Defender Fabao completed the victory by scoring from a rebound late in the game.

Palmeiras fans attempted to invade the directors box at halftime after watching their team capitulate to Internacional, the reigning South American champions, but were stopped by police.

A large number of supporters abandoned the stadium altogether while others wore red noses in protest.

Seventeen-year-old striker Alexandre Pato scored in the first minute of his professional debut to give Internacional the lead and Fernandao added a second in the fifth minute.

Hapless defender Daniel then put through his own goal and Iarley made it 4-0 by the break.

Palmeiras had former Atletico Madrid and Middlesbrough midfielder Juninho Paulista sent off early in the second half for fighting with Internacional's Elder Granja, who was also dismissed.

Internacional defender Fabiano Eller put through his own goal to give Palmeiras a late consolation.

Luciano Almeida and Welliton put Goias in charge before Souza, the championship's leading scorer, added the third, only to be ignored by his team mates when he celebrated.

'It's vanity,' he said.

With one match to play, Palmeiras are 16th in the 20-team table with 43 points, five ahead of Ponte Preta.

Sao Caetano, who rose from the third division to finish as runners-up in the 2000 and 2001 Brazilian championship as well as the 2002 Libertadores Cup, were left a further two points behind after their loss to Parana.

Fluminense, the other team in danger of going down, beat bottom club Santa Cruz 2-1 in a match between two clubs who this year have employed 13 coaches between them.

The win took 'Flu' up to 15th place, one point ahead of Palmeiras.