SAO PAULO (AP) — Flamengo drew rival Vasco da Gama 1-1 in the first leg of the final of the Rio de Janeiro state championship on Sunday and is a draw away from winning its first state title in three years.
Defender Rodrigo put Vasco da Gama ahead with a header from a corner in the 11th minute and forward Paulinho equalized for Flamengo with a long-range right-footer in the 60th. Vasco, seeking its first state trophy since 2003, played a man down from the 55th at the Maracana Stadium.
In the Sao Paulo state championship, Ituano upset Santos 1-0 in the first leg of the final at the Pacaembu stadium. The minnow club will play for a draw next week to try to win a top title for the first time in its history.
Flamengo, focusing on the Copa Libertadores, didn't play with all of its regular starters. But it took advantage of the sending off of striker Everton Costa after a second yellow card early in the second half to keep pressure on its rival and earn the equalizer.
Flamengo has won four Rio titles in the last seven years, the last in 2011. Vasco da Gama lost the last four finals it played against Flamengo, including in 2004, the last time it reached the decisive match.
Flamengo has the tiebreaker for next week's finale at the Maracana because it had a better campaign during the competition.
Only about 27,000 fans were at the game on Sunday, in one of the worst attendances for a state final in the famed stadium.
In Sao Paulo, Ituano came away with a surprising 1-0 win over Santos thanks to a goal by midfielder Cristian in the 20th minute. Midfielder Cicero missed a 35th-minute penalty kick for Santos to the disappointment of its nearly 30,000 fans packing the Pacaembu.
"They pressured us in the end but we were able to hold on to the result," said Ituano coach Doriva, a former Brazil midfielder. "But we know it's not over yet. The final match is going to be very difficult."
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