Defending champion Cruzeiro draws Ponte Preta 1-1, remains winless in Brazilian league


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SAO PAULO — Two-time defending champion Cruzeiro was held to a 1-1 home draw against Ponte Preta on Sunday, remaining winless after three Brazilian league matches.

Midfielder Charles gave Cruzeiro the lead with a long-range strike in the 82nd minute at the Mineirao Stadium, but Ponte Preta equalized three minutes later with forward Biro Biro's right-footed shot from just inside the area.

Cruzeiro played without most of its regular starters because it faces Argentina's River Plate on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Copa Libertadores. The Brazilian club won the first leg 1-0 last week in Argentina.

Cruzeiro, which was yet to score in the Brazilian league, is only 18th in the 20-team standings, inside relegation zone. Ponte Preta, recently promoted to the top flight, is in seventh place with five points.

Sport reached seven points to take the tournament's early lead after beating Coritiba 1-0 in Recife. Striker Neto scored a 29th-minute winner at the Ilha do Retiro Stadium to give the traditional northeastern club its second win in three matches.

At the Maracana stadium, Corinthians and Fluminense drew 0-0 in a match marked by an incredible error by Corinthians Peruvian striker Paolo Guerrero, who had an open net in front of him but sent his shot wide with the goalkeeper and defenders already beaten behind him inside the penalty area.

Corinthians officials said last week that Guerrero is one of the players likely to leave the five-time Brazilian champion in the coming months because of the team's financial struggles. Corinthians was the only team entering the weekend with two league victories.

Also Sunday, Vanderlei Luxemburgo's Flamengo lost 2-1 at recently promoted Avai, staying with only one point after three matches. Brazil's most popular club complained that Avai's winner should have been called off because the ball went out of bounds before it was crossed into the area for the score. The match marked the debut of Colombian left back Pablo Armero with Flamengo.

Earlier Sunday, Palmeiras lost 1-0 to Goias in front of nearly 40,000 fans at its recently built Allianz Parque stadium, also remaining winless after the first three rounds. The eight-time national champion had drawn its first two matches. Goias is one of the early surprises of the tournament with two wins and a draw, good for second place in the standings.

On Saturday, fourth-place Sao Paulo defeated Joinville 3-0 at the Morumbi Stadium with goals by defender Doria, midfielder Michel Bastos and former AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato.

Gremio, in its first match since former Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari resigned following the team's poor results, defeated Figueirense 1-0 at the Arena Gremio in Porto Alegre for its first win, while Rio de Janeiro's Vasco da Gama was held to its third consecutive draw, a 1-1 result at home against Internacional, which also rested its regular starters because of the Copa Libertadores' quarterfinals.

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