BY MARK GODFREY

Atlético Mineiro’s week started off with great jubilation as they reached the final of the Copa Libertadores in dramatic fashion. Trailing 2-0 from the first leg with Argentinian side, Newell’s Old Boys, they successfully drew level on aggregate to send the semi-final tie to the lottery of a penalty shoot-out. Four consecutive failures from the spot brought Ronaldinho’s turn to pass the sternest of tests. The former Barcelona star’s successful proved to be the winner when Newell’s Rodriguez missed the final penalty. Paraguay’s Club Olimpia stand in the way of Mineiro and the continent’s top prize in a two-legged final to take place on July 18th and 25th.

The week was topped off when the men from Belo Horizonte went down to São Paulo to take on Corinthians and came away with a 1-0 win. Those three points saw Mineiro, who were in the relegation places just two weeks ago, jump up to 9th place in the standings, just five points in arrears of top spot.

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Mineiro’s cross-town rivals, Cruzeiro, continue to go about their business quietly. A facile 3-0 win over bottom club Náutico keeps them tucked in just behind the top three who are headed by the still unbeaten, Coritiba. Their 1-0 victory at home to Atlético PR combined with Botafogo’s defeat at Grêmio saw Marquinhos Santos’ men regain their place at the head of affairs.

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Elsewhere, Santos’ resurgence continued as they thrashed Portuguesa 4-1, São Paulo’s good start to the year has well and truly stalled after a loss to second placed Vitória and Fluminense slumped to their fourth defeat of the season at home to the Diego Forlan-inspired, Internacional. The Uruguayan striker scored twice and created another as his team went four games unbeaten and rose to fifth place in the table.

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The best looking games in the next round of fixtures involve Coritiba’s trip to in-form Santos, São Paulo’s match with Internacional and Botafogo’s chance to rack up a few goals when they play host to Náutico. Ronaldinho’s Mineiro face Ponte Preta between the home and away legs of the Libertadores final and could be forgiven if they find their attention is not completely focussed on the game on Sunday at Estádio Raimundo Sampaio.

STANDINGS

1. Coritiba 7 4 3 0 9:5 (+4) 15
2. Vitória 7 4 1 2 13:8 (+5) 13
3. Botafogo 7 4 1 2 10:7 (+3) 13
4. Cruzeiro 7 3 3 1 15:7 (+8) 12
5. Internacional 7 3 3 1 16:12 (+4) 12
6. Grêmio 7 3 3 1 8:6 (+2) 12
7. Bahia 8 3 3 2 8:9 (-1) 12
8. Santos 7 3 2 2 10:7 (+3) 11
9. Atlético Mineiro 7 3 1 3 7:7 (+0) 10
10. Fluminense 7 3 0 4 11:10 (+1) 9
11. Flamengo 7 2 3 2 8:7 (+1) 9
12. Corinthians 7 2 3 2 5:4 (+1) 9
13. Goiás 7 2 3 2 5:9 (-4) 9
14. São Paulo 8 2 2 4 11:10 (+1) 8
15. Ponte Preta 7 2 1 4 8:10 (-2) 7
16. Portuguesa SP 7 1 4 2 7:10 (-3) 7
17. Criciúma 7 2 1 4 8:13 (-5) 7
18. Vasco da Gama 7 2 1 4 8:14 (-6) 7
19. Atlético Paranaense 7 1 3 3 12:14 (-2) 6
20. Náutico 7 1 1 5 4:14 (-10) 4

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