Corinthians eliminated in Sao Paulo championshipBy TALES AZZONI , Associated Press
Mar. 16, 2014 9:54 PM ET
SAO PAULO (AP) — Defending champion Corinthians has been eliminated from the Sao Paulo state championship after a goalless draw with minnow Penapolense on Sunday.
The draw, along with Sao Paulo's 1-0 home loss to Ituano, sealed Corinthians' elimination with one round left in the qualifying stage of the traditional regional championship.
The results mean that Corinthians, the 2012 club world champion, will not be among the eight teams playing in the knockout stage.
The elimination of the popular Brazilian club comes as a surprise because the top four Sao Paulo teams easily advance to the competition's final stages nearly every year. Sao Paulo, Santos and Palmeiras had already secured their spots in the quarterfinals several rounds ago.
Palmeiras can finish the first stage with the best record — and secure home-field advantage — with a win or draw against second-place Santos in the last round next weekend.
Corinthians would have kept its chances alive if Sao Paulo had at least drawn Ituano at Morumbi stadium, but Sao Paulo allowed an early goal and couldn't recover under a pouring rain.
Corinthians striker Romarinho accused Sao Paulo of not playing as hard as possible.
"Sao Paulo lost on purpose, everybody knows that," he said.
Sao Paulo coach Muricy Ramalho maintained, however, that his team had nothing to do with Corinthians' elimination, saying it was up to its rival "to do its part" during the rest of the competition. The coach blamed the heavy rain and bad pitch for Sao Paulo's poor play on Sunday.
Sao Paulo beat Corinthians 3-2 at Pacaembu stadium last weekend.
In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil striker Fred scored a second-half equalizer to help Fluminense draw Vasco da Gama 1-1 at Maracana stadium. Both teams had already advanced to the semifinals of the state's championship, along with Flamengo. Botafogo was eliminated last week.
The Brazilian football season begins with teams playing regional championships in the first few months of the year. The national league starts in April and goes until December.
Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni