The 20-year-old scored a hat-trick to put his side one game away from securing their third consecutive Paulista title, a feat not achieved by any club since the time of Pele
Santos secured their spot in the final of the Campeonato Paulista with a 3-1 win over Sao Paulo at the Morumbi.
The visitors took an early lead when Alan Kardec was felled inside the area by Paulo Miranda after just two minutes of play. Neymar stepped up and converted the penalty with aplomb, scoring his 100th goal for the club. However, Santos struggled to take charge of the game after going ahead and in the 10th minute Paulo Miranda almost atoned for his penalty error but his header hit the post.
The Peixe were remaining tough to break down and Sao Paulo were running out of ideas in the final third. The hosts were made to rue their missed chances when Rhodolfo gave the ball away to Ganso in his own half. He then released Neymar who outpaced Paulo Miranda and slotted a cool finish past Denis into the bottom corner.
Sao Paulo missed two chances to pull one back through Lucas and Paulo Miranda soon after the restart but Neymar came closer when he hit the post with five second-half minutes played. The Tricolor Paulista created more chances and moments after Willian Jose hit the post, he found the net with a tidy finish. The hosts were in the ascendancy and in the 65th minute substitute goalkeeper Aranha made a fantastic save to deny Cicero's wicked free kick from finding the top corner. Santos were limited to the counterattack but it paid dividends when Neymar completed his hat-trick with a bullet shot that Denis was unable to keep out, putting the game beyond doubt.
Cicero was sent off in the dying moments and it will be Santos who will be competing in the Paulista final. They can become the first team to win the trophy three consecutive times since Pele lead the club to the feat in the 1960s.
|Serie B side Guarani came from behind against Ponte Preta in the Campineiro derby to win 3-1 and book a date against reigning champions Santos in the final.
The game began evenly with neither team dictating the match. Both teams struggled to test the opposing goalkeepers with the ball being highly contested in midfield, and it was not until 10 minutes before half time when the derby burst into life. Guarani should have gone ahead but Domingos headed wide from inside the six-yard box after a great delivery from Danilo Sacramento. The glaring miss proved costly as Ponte Preta took charge, against the run of play, in the 39th minute. Caio showed fantastic close control at the top of the box before firing a low reverse shot into the bottom corner that was disguised by the Guarani defenders.
The second period continued in a similar vein to the end of the first. After Fabinho blocked his team-mate Neto's shot from hitting the target, Roger pulled a save from Guarani's Emerson at the other end. The hosts were unperturbed and got the reward their attacking play deserved when Fabio Bahia slotted home from Fabinho's cross in the 53rd minute. Fabinho could then have added another himself moments later but Bruno turned his effort onto the bar.
The Bugre completed the comeback midway through the second half as Medina tapped in from 12 yards after an unselfish square pass from Danilo. Neto came close to doubling the gap between the two sides but Bruno again thwarted the hosts on 74 minutes. Guarani put their backs to the wall and managed to steal another goal before the final whistle as Medina nodded in his second of the night.
Guarani's win sets up a huge finale against Santos in their first year back in the state's top flight. Meanwhile, Ponte Preta will need to vastly improve if they are to hold onto their newly acquired status as a Serie A club this season.