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Ronaldo scores twice in Corinthians' draw

RONALDO scored two goals for Corinthians but 10-man Palmeiras rallied twice to earn a 2-2 draw and retain the lead in the Brazilian league yesterday.

Palmeiras and defending champion Sao Paulo, which beat Barueri 1-0 on Saturday, have 58 points each with five rounds to go, but Palmeiras leads on goal difference.

Third-place Atletico Mineiro defeated Goias 3-2 to move within two points of the lead, while fourth-place Flamengo edged Santos 1-0 on Saturday and is four points behind Palmeiras and Sao Paulo.

Ronaldo scored his first goal with a 38th-minute penalty after Marcos, Palmeiras' veteran World Cup goalkeeper, fouled striker Jorge Henrique inside the area and was sent off.

Palmeiras equalized with a header by defender Danilo in the 51st, but Ronaldo put Corinthians ahead again in the 66th thanks to a perfect through-ball from Argentine midfielder Matias Defederico, who had also set up the move that prompted the first-half penalty.

Ronaldo calmly waited for Palmeiras' substitute goalkeeper Bruno to charge and then beat him with a low left-footed shot. The goals were Ronaldo's ninth and 10th in the Brazilian league, taking his total to 21 since returning to competitive football in March after recovering from the third serious injury of his career.

Ronaldo and Corinthians had several chances to increase the lead at Prudentao stadium, but Palmeiras took advantage of a set piece in the 85th to equalize again with a header by defender Mauricio.

Palmeiras is unbeaten against Corinthians in three years, since a 1-0 defeat in October 2006. With the draw in Presidente Prudente, Palmeiras - seeking its first Brazilian title since 1994 - narrowly avoided losing the lead in the league for the first time in 18 rounds.

Sao Paulo moved closer by beating Barueri 1-0 with a first-half goal by midfielder Jorge Wagner at Morumbi stadium on Saturday, giving the six-time champion its third straight win.

Barueri played without two regular starters who were suspended by team directors after they told local media that other clubs had offered Barueri money to beat Flamengo last Wednesday.

Also on Saturday, goalkeeper Bruno saved a penalty in each half in Flamengo's defeat of Santos in front of nearly 80,000 people at Maracana stadium. Midfielder Paulo Henrique missed both penalties for Santos, which is winless in its last five matches.

Atletico Mineiro edged Goias at Serra Dourada stadium in Goiania thanks to a 69th-minute penalty converted by the league's leading scorer Diego Tardelli, keeping alive the team's hopes of winning the championship for the first time since 1971. Atletico Mineiro won despite allowing Goias to come back from a two-goal deficit in the first half.

Internacional dropped to fifth place after losing 1-0 to Botafogo at its Beira-Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, its second defeat in a row. The victory kept Botafogo out of the relegation zone.

Sixth-place Cruzeiro missed a chance to move closer to the leaders after squandering a two-goal first-half lead to lose 3-2 to Fluminense. The result at Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte ended the team's five-match winning streak and left it six points back.

Former Lyon striker Fred scored twice for Fluminense, which rose from last place with the victory but remains in the relegation zone.

The top four clubs will qualify for next year's Copa Libertadores, while the bottom four will be relegated.

In other results yesterday, Sport dropped to last place with a 3-2 loss to rival Nautico in Recife, while Santo Andre beat Gremio 2-0 in Santo Andre.


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