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Corinthians woes deepen in state championship

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Corinthians slumped to a 3-1 state championship defeat at Sao Caetano on Sunday, with new coach Mano Menezes left to size up the task of restoring the struggling giant to the Brazilian top flight.

The arrival of Menezes, who led Gremio to the final of the South American Libertadores Cup last year, has raised hopes of a revival following relegation to the second division in December.

Sao Caetano exposed a poorly integrated Corinthians line-up with two goals resulting from elementary defensive errors that permitted Fabio Luis and Luan to canter through the rearguard to score.

Corinthians' new signing Uruguayan Alberto Acosta gifted Sao Caetano another goal with a glancing header into his own net.

Corinthians, who beat Guarani in their opening match, improved as the game progressed. Striker Bruno Octavio had two long-range shots spectacularly saved and substitute Dentinho reduced the deficit with a close-range header.

The defeat was all the more disappointing for Corinthians as it came against a fellow second division team.

Corinthians is one of Brazil's best-supported clubs, and last won the national title in 2005, but has suffered a rapid decline after a controversial partnership with the London-based Media Sports Investments turned sour.

'We had some difficulty adapting as a unit, but we reorganised ourselves and showed that there is considerable room for improvement,' Menezes told reporters.

Sao Paulo collected a second successive win in the state tournament, edging out Rio Preto with a late goal by Souza.

On-loan striker Adriano was unable to reproduce the clinical finishing that gave him two goals in Sao Paulo's opening state championship encounter on Thursday.

Santos and Palmeiras drew goalless on coach Wanderlei Luxemburgo's return to his former employers after swapping Santos for Palmeiras during the close season.

The Rio de Janeiro state championship also got under way, with wins for Flamengo, Botafogo and Fluminense.

Vasco da Gama lost 2-1 at home to Madureira and were coached by Alfredo Sampaio as Romario's official debut as player-coach was put on ice.

The former Brazil international is serving a 120-day ban after testing positive for the banned masking agent finasteride following a state championship match in October.

Romario has been taking charge of Vasco's training sessions but watched from the stands on Sunday.

He has blamed the doping incident on a hair-loss product and his appeal is due to be heard later this month.