SAO PAULO (AP) — Corinthians scored a goal in each half Sunday to defeat three-time defending champion Santos 2-1 in the first leg of the Sao Paulo state championship final, one of Brazil's most traditional regional tournaments.
Brazil defensive midfielder Paulinho opened the scoring for Corinthians with a right-footed shot from near the penalty spot in the 41st minute, and defender Paulo Andre increased the lead with a hard shot after a scramble inside the area in the 75th.
Led by Brazil striker Neymar, Santos increased its chances of winning a fourth straight title when Durval scored with a header in the 82nd.
Santos is seeking its 21st state trophy, while Corinthians is the winningest club in Sao Paulo with 27.
The return match is next week at Vila Belmiro Stadium in Santos.
Playing at home in front of nearly 40,000 people, Corinthians dominated at Pacaembu Stadium, creating most of the significant scoring chances from the start.
Shortly after scoring, Paulinho nearly found the net again with a powerful right-footer that struck the crossbar. On the rebound, Peru striker Paolo Guerrero had only goalkeeper Rafael to beat but he rushed his shot and sent the ball wide.
Emerson almost added to the lead less than 10 minutes into the second half, entering the area unmarked before losing control of the ball as Rafael charged to make the stop. In the 70th, Paulinho again had a chance, dribbling past two defenders before firing a low shot just wide.
"We had many opportunities to score but we couldn't capitalize on them, we needed to be a little more patient there in front of the goal," Paulinho said. "But we have the advantage now, it's small but we still have it."
Santos' best chance came with a hard shot by midfielder Cicero following a nice play by Neymar inside the area. Corinthians goalkeeper Cassio just barely tipped the ball, sending it into the left post. Neymar had his best chance with a header that forced Cassio to make a remarkable save in the 80th.
Substitute Corinthians striker Alexandre Pato had a goal correctly disallowed because of offside in the 85th.
Santos fans got into a confrontation with police in the stands before the match, but there were no reports of significant injuries.
In the Minas Gerais state championship, striker Jo scored in the 16th, forward Diego Tardelli added another goal in the 73rd and defender Marcos Rocha finsihed the scoring in the 79th to give Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro a 3-0 win over Cruzeiro in the first leg of the state final.
Cruzeiro played a man down from the 55th after defender Bruno Rodrigo received his second yellow card.
The result extended Atletico Mineiro's unbeaten run at Independencia Stadium to 33 matches. It can win the title even if it loses the return match by a two-goal difference at the Mineirao next week.
In Bahia state, Vitoria thrashed Bahia 7-3 in a match in which fans were banned from entering the stadium with the caxirolas, the Brazilian version of the vuvuzela and the official instrument of the 2014 World Cup. Police banned the maraca-like instrument from the Arena Fonte Nova after fans, upset with their team's loss last month, threw the small green-and-yellow objects onto the pitch, briefly stopping the match. Vitoria won that match 5-1.
After the decision by the Bahia state police, FIFA and the local 2014 World Cup organizing committee said Friday that they would reevaluate whether to allow the instrument during the Confederations Cup, the warm-up tournament which begins June 15.
Also Sunday, Coritiba, led by former Fenerbahce playmaker Alex, beat Atletico Paranaense 3-1 to win the Parana state title 5-3 on aggregate.
Clarence Seedorf's Botafogo won the Rio de Janeiro state title last week.
Regional championships are played in the first few months of the year in Brazil, and the national league starts in May.
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