SAO PAULO (AP) — Fluminense scored two late goals in a 2-1 win over Ponte Preta on Sunday to retain a nine-point lead over Atletico Mineiro atop the Brazilian league.
Fluminense allowed a first-minute goal at the Sao Januario stadium in Rio de Janeiro, but striker Fred converted a penalty kick in the 80th and defender Gum netted the winner in the 88th to help the team maintain its comfortable advantage with eight matches remaining.
Fluminense has 68 points, while Atletico Mineiro has 59 and Gremio 57.
Ronaldinho's Atletico earned a late 2-1 win over Sport in Belo Horizonte, while Gremio allowed a last-minute equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Botafogo in Porto Alegre.
Fluminense, the 2010 champion, will host Gremio on Wednesday and travel to face Atletico Mineiro the following Sunday. It will virtually secure its fourth national title if it wins both matches, and it can still keep the lead despite consecutive losses.
"It was difficult after allowing the early goal, but we fought hard and it paid off in the end," Gum said. "It was important to get the victory because it gives us some cushion going into the next two matches."
The victory — the team's fifth in a row — didn't come without controversy, as Ponte Preta complained of a missed red card and irregularities in the plays that led to both Fluminense goals.
Striker Luan opened the scoring for 14th-place Ponte Preta with a well-placed right-footed shot just a minute into the match, but Fluminense began its rally after midfielder Wendel Santos was sent off with a second yellow card in the 74th.
Fluminense's first goal came after a controversial hand ball by Luan inside the penalty area, and Gum's winning header just before the final whistle happened came after a disputed foul call just outside the box.
As Ponte Preta complained after the match, Fluminense players celebrated with the fans.
Atletico Mineiro stayed within range after a late come-from-behind win over Sport at the Independencia stadium in Belo Horizonte.