SAO PAULO – Neymar scored a pair of goals Sunday to help Santos beat Guarani 4-2 and become the first team in 43 years to win three straight Sao Paulo State Championships.
In Rio de Janeiro State Tournament, Fluminense beat Botafogo 1-0 to win its first title since 2005. It had won the first leg 4-1 last week.
Santos won the Sao Paulo title 7-2 on aggregate following a 3-0 victory in the first leg last week. No team had won the traditional regional tournament three times in a row since Santos did it in 1967-69, when Pele was still playing.
Santos has reached the final four years in a row, dating back to when Neymar made his professional debut as a 17-year-old in 2009.
The 20-year-old Neymar scored two goals in each of the team’s last four matches and finished as the competition’s top scorer with 20 goals. Neymar is already the top scorer for Santos in the post-Pele era with 108 goals, having scored 27 times in 24 matches this year.
“It’s been a great year for me and for Santos,” Neymar said. “I never expected this would be happening.”
It was Santos’ 20th title in the tournament, tying Sao Paulo for the third most ever. Corinthians has 26 and Palmeiras 22. The title comes just three days after the team’s historic 8-0 win over Bolivar in the round of 16 of the Copa Libertadores, the Latin American competition Santos is trying to win for a second straight year. Neymar scored twice and set up five goals in the match.
“There is no doubt our team has a lot of quality, it’s very strong,” Santos goalkeeper Rafael said. “That’s why we are winning so much recently.”
In Rio, Fluminense won its 31st state title after Rafael Moura scored the winner in the 63rd minute at the Engenhao stadium, clinching the title 5-1 on aggregate after a 4-1 win last week.
Flamengo is the state’s most successful team with 32 titles. Botafogo was trying to win its 20th title — the first since 2010.
Former Chelsea playmaker Deco left the match with an apparent muscle injury and is doubtful for Fluminense’s match against Boca Juniors in the quarterfinals of the Copa Libertadores. Striker Fred didn’t play Sunday because of a muscle injury and also is listed as doubtful.
Brazil does not follow the European football calendar and regional tournaments are played in the first few months of the year across the country. The Brazilian league starts next week.
Internacional came from behind to beat Caxias do Sul 2-1 to win its 41st title in the Rio Grande do Sul state championship, while Atletico Mineiro beat America 3-0 to win the Minas Gerais state title unbeaten. In the northeastern state of Bahia, former Brazil player Paulo Roberto Falcao coached Bahia to a 3-3 draw against rival Vitoria, securing the team’s first state title since 2001. — AP