Santos defeated Guarani 3-0 in the first leg of the final of the Campeonato Paulista, Sao Paulo’s professional soccer league. Playing away, Santos went ahead in the 42nd minute thanks to a spectacular left-footed strike by Paulo Henrique Ganso. The ever dangerous Neymar set up Ganso’s goal by cutting the ball back after bursting down the left flank. Ganso sent a rocket into the top left corner of the net from just outside the penalty box. Neymar made the score 2-0 in the 65th minute by coolly finishing off an attacking play involving Ganso in the box. The Guarani keeper did well to force the ball away from Ganso, but was unable to stop Neymar’s shrewd placement of his shot in the lower right corner of the net. Finally, in the dying minutes of injury time, Neymar collected a cross delivered from the right flank, in the box, beat his defender and unleashed a thunderous shot to create a bulge in the roof of the net for his second goal of the evening. The spiky haired Santos sensation celebrated his second goal by collapsing on the field in a gesture of exhaustion after a heroic performance in the crucial first leg of the Paulista championship final.
Santos have now all but secured the Paulista championship for the third consecutive year. The second leg of the final will be played at Santos on May 13. Neymar and Ganso will then likely be called up for international duty in Brazil's friendly against Denmark in Hamburg, Germany on May 26. Santos's recent run of form has revealed Ganso's ability to function not just as a playmaker, but also as an attacking midfielder with the courage and ability to score from long range in ways that recall the genius of Rivaldo.