Palmeiras draws Atletico Paranaense 1-1, escapes relegation to 2nd division in Brazil

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SAO PAULO — Traditional Brazilian club Palmeiras was held to a 1-1 draw by Atletico Paranaense but escaped relegation thanks to Vitoria's 1-0 loss to Santos in the final round of the Brazilian league.

The eight-time national champion needed to win the home game to guarantee its spot in the top flight without depending on other results, but the draw was enough after Vitoria failed to win its match in Salvador.

Bahia also had a chance to escape demotion but lost 3-2 at Coritiba. Criciuma and traditional Rio de Janeiro club Botafogo had already been relegated.

Palmeiras finished with 40 points, two ahead of Vitoria and three in front of Bahia. Botafogo ended with 34 points and Criciuma with 32.

Cruzeiro, which clinched its second consecutive league title two rounds in advance, ended the tournament with a 2-1 home win over Fluminense with one of the goals coming from a remarkable side-volley by Bolivia striker Marcelo Moreno.

The victory gave Cruzeiro 80 points, the most since the tournament began being played with all teams facing each other twice, at home and away. Cruzeiro also broke the record for most victories with 24 from 38 matches. The four-time national champion led from the sixth round and finished 10 points ahead of second-place Sao Paulo, which lost 1-0 at Sport on Sunday.

Atletico Paranaense opened the scoring in Sao Paulo with a header by Ricardo Silva in the 10th minute, and Palmeiras equalized with a penalty converted by striker Henrique in the 20th. Henrique ended as the tournament's second-best scorer with 16 goals, two less than Fluminense's Fred.

Palmeiras, the Brazilian team with the most national titles, had lost five straight coming into the final round. Celebrating its centennial, the team was trying to avoid being relegated for the second time in three years. The club played in the second division in 2003 and 2013.

It was only the second match at Palmeiras' new stadium, a 43,000-capacity arena in the heart of Sao Paulo. Local authorities had tried to move the decisive match to a different stadium because of security concerns. The new Allianz Parque was built by World Cup standards, without fences between the stands and the pitch, which ignited fears of a mass invasion had Palmeiras failed to remain in the first division.

Vitoria would have stayed in the top flight had it beaten Santos at home, but it lost after conceding a goal in second-half injury time.

The tournament's final round marked the retirement of Coritiba playmaker Alex, the former Brazil midfielder who thrived with Turkey's Fenerbahce and also with Palmeiras and Cruzeiro. He was crucial when Cruzeiro won the 2003 Brazilian league title.

The 37-year-old player cried after he was substituted and met with his wife and his children on the sidelines at the Couto Pereira Stadium in Curitiba.

On Saturday, Internacional beat Figueirense 2-1 in Florianopolis with an injury time winner to secure third place and an automatic spot in the group stage of next year's Copa Libertadores. The team's first goal was scored in the 90th after Figueirense had gone ahead in the 49th.

The result hurt Corinthians, which finished fourth despite a 2-1 win over Criciuma at the Itaquerao stadium in Sao Paulo. The popular club will have to play a playoff to get into the group stage of Latin America's most important competition.

After the match, Corinthians made official that it won't keep former Brazil coach Mano Menezes next season. His replacement has not been announced.

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