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Palmeiras in danger again after Arce penalty miss

© Reuters 2002

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Former South American champions Palmerias dropped back into the Brazilian championship relegation zone on Sunday after a rare penalty miss by Paraguayan full-back Francisco Arce.

Arce, regarded as one of the best free-kick and penalty specialists in the game, blasted his effort against the crossbar during the match at Vasco da Gama.

Vasco went on to win the relegation clash 1-0 with a second-half goal by Leo Lima.

Both teams have suffered a dramatic slump after winning the Libertadores Cup.

Vasco were champions in 1998 and Palmeiras the following year. Palmeiras, with 23 points and only three games to play, dropped to 24th in the 26-team table while Vasco, with 26 points, climbed to 18th away from the danger zone.

Flamengo and Botafogo also clashed in another match featuring two fallen giants, with the former coming out 2-0 winners thanks to goals by Ze Carlos and Iranildo.

Flamengo (22 points) are 20th and Botafogo, who have already changed coaches twice in the championship, dropped to last place with 21.

At the other end of the table, Santos made almost certain of a quarter-final place with a controversial 2-0 win at Guarani and Fluminense moved into the top eight when they beat Corinthians by the same score.

Santos, third with 39 points, opened the scoring with a first-half free kick from 17-year-old midfielder but Guarani claimed the ball did not cross the line.

Guarani were also angry at having a penalty appeal turned down and at the sending-off of Romildo for violent play before halftime. Eighteen-year-old Robinho added Santos' second after the break.

Championship top-scorer Rodrigo Fabri, who is owned by Real Madrid but has never played for them, took his tally to 16 when he was on target twice for Gremio but his exploits were not enough and his team crashed 3-2 to Cruzeiro.

The win, with one goal from midfielder Alex and two from striker Fabio Junior, helped the team led by former Brazil coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo to climb to sixteenth.

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