Emerson scored a vital away goal before being sent off to put Corinthians in pole position to qualify for the Copa Libertadores final next week.
In a heated game in Sao Paulo, the Corinthians winger bent a superb first-half strike over the head of Rafael to give the away side a 1-0 lead over Santos going into the second leg.
The visitors began the match with confidence as they began to pass the ball about comfortably at the Vila Belmiro.
With less than 30 minutes on the clock, Emerson scored to put the visitors ahead and ignite the travelling support.
Paulinho broke from midfield, bringing both Henrique and Edu Dracena out of position. He slipped the ball forward towards Emerson, who had cut in from the left flank and collected the pass on the edge of the box.
With time to set himself, he bent a beautiful effort into the top corner to leave Rafael sprawling.
Following the half-time interval, Santos returned to the field looking refreshed and reinvigorated.
Cassio Ramos, who had a good game, prevented Santos equalising on several occasions, and was called to duty soon after the break – first to get down well to prevent Durval and then tipping Borges’ header over the bar.
As Santos continued to search for an all-important equaliser, Corinthians had a worthy penalty appeal turned down. In on goal and one-on-one with Cassio, Emerson was unable to double his goal tally as he looked to be brought down in the area. However, the referee waved away the flurry of appeals.
What followed was a scruffy period of play as Alessandro and Neymar were both cautioned before Corinthians’ goalscoring hero, Emerson, was shown a second yellow card for a poor tackle on Neymar which gave the referee no choice but to send the wide-man off.
With 10 minutes remaining in the tie, Neymar was inches away from snatching a late equaliser. Alan Kardec played a teasing low ball across the six-yard box from the right wing which Leandro Castan managed to force out for a corner as the Santos trickster lurked at the far post.
From the following corner, the ball was headed clear, but only to the feet of Juan who hit a thunderous drive only to see Cassio pull of a spectacular save.
Just five minutes remained in the first leg when a floodlight failure suspended play for 10 to 15 minutes. When play resumed, Santos looked the more urgent of the two sides, however, were unable to break down Corinthians’ resolute backline.
The two sides will face each other in the second leg next Wednesday.
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