Weary Corinthians wilt in first Paulista clash

January 11, 2006

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Corinthians slumped to a 1-0 defeat by Noroeste in the opening match of the Sao Paulo state championship on Wednesday barely six weeks after lifting the Brazilian title.

Corinthians's weary, wilting players were outfought in the mid-afternoon heat in the Sao Paulo hinterland town of Bauru.

Noroeste's Luciano Santos scored the only goal after 38 minutes, finding the top corner with a long-range shot.

Corinthians' normally irrepressible $18 million Argentina striker Carlos Tevez managed just one shot on goal.

Tevez had submitted a request to be rested but coach Antonio Lopes told him to cancel his holiday plans and report for duty in Brazil's most prestigious regional competition.

'I think this game has come very soon after a hard season, and it was very hot out there but this was a hard-fought match,' said Tevez.

Corinthians came close to earning a point when Marcelo Mattos smashed a shot onto the bar and the ball appeared to enter the goal but referee Paulo Cesar de Oliveira cut short the celebrations.

Noroeste won their place in the state championship last year after winning promotion from the second division.

'We have to believe that we can be champions but it is not going to be easy,' said Noroeste coach Paulo Comelli.