RIO DE JANEIRO - Teenage striker Neymar,
who snubbed a move to Chelsea last Thursday, scored one goal
and laid on the other as Santos beat Atletico Mineiro 2-0 in
the Brazilian championship on Sunday.
Fluminense laid on a huge welcome for former Chelsea and
Portugal midfielder Deco on his debut in the Rio derby with
Vasco da Gama in front of a crowd of 80,000 at the Maracana but
the leaders were held 2-2.
Corinthians cut Fluminense's lead to two points with a 3-0
win over Sao Paulo in their city derby.
After 15 rounds, "Flu" have 33 points and Corinthians 31
with Botafogo and Ceara completing the top four, seven points
Neymar, who said he would stay at Santos for five more
years after his club turned down a 20 million euro offer from Chelsea, put Santos ahead just before the
hour when he converted a penalty after a hand ball by Mineiro's
Danilo scored the second from Neymar's pass to put Santos
on 21 points in sixth place with a match in hand.
"It was just another game, I had to play well, but it was
like a new start," the 18-year-old Neymar told reporters. "I
had a good match, I scored a goal and gave the pass for
Paulista (Sao Paulo) state and Copa Brasil winners Santos
were inundated with offers for their talented young players and
they transferred forward Andre and midfielder Wesley to
European clubs but managed to keep Neymar.
"I'm happy with my growing status as an idol. That's what I
wanted here at Santos," Neymar said.
"My happiness is being able to stay at home. I've been here
(at Santos) for six years and that (fact) won out."
Deco, playing his first league match in the country of his
birth after 13 years in Europe where he became a naturalised
Portuguese, could have crowned his debut with a goal and
victory in the "clasico", but with only the goalkeeper to beat
in the 87th minute, he blasted his chance over the bar.
The derby marked the temporary closure of the lower stands
at the Maracana for their refurbishment for the 2014 World Cup,
reducing its capacity to 40,000 until the end of the year.
After that it will be closed altogether for further work.
Corinthians, watched by former coach Mano Menezes who left
last month to take the Brazil job, produced a good performance
in their win over Sao Paulo with two goals from midfielder
Elias and the other by Jucilei.
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