Soccer-Four sent off in rain-hit Rio derby

By Andrew Downie RIO DE JANEIRO, March 23 (Reuters) - Torrential rain in Rio de Janeiro forced the referee to suspend the Flamengo-Vasco derby for almost an hour on Sunday but the stoppage did not dampen passions, with four sent off at the end of an action-packed 2-1 win for Flamengo. The game was halted midway through the first half, with the conditions already having contributed to the opening goal. With just over a quarter of an hour gone, the Vasco da Gama keeper Martin Silva tried to roll the ball to defender Rodrigo and it got stuck in a puddle. Alecsandro reacted quickest and nipped in to slam the ball into the net. Within minutes the rain had turned the rebuilt World Cup venue into an unplayable swamp. The referee brought the players out again after a 50-minute break and Vasco quickly levelled through Gilberto. But Alecsandro netted a second from the penalty spot after 52 minutes to give Flamengo the winner. With nine minutes left on the clock, Paulinho brought down Vasco's Bernardo as he raced toward goal, sparking a brawl. The referee sent off both players, plus Vasco's Guinazu and Flamengo's Anderson Pico. The win takes Flamengo above Vasco into third place in the Carioca state championship table. Earlier in the day, league leaders Botafogo beat Cabofriense 1-0, while Fluminense and Tigres drew 1-1 on Saturday night. In Sao Paulo, both Santos and Corinthians kept up their impressive starts to the season. Corinthians struggled to beat Capivariano 3-2 but the win ensured they continued an unbeaten run that started mid-January. Santos, meanwhile, beat Audax 1-0 on Saturday to give new manager Marcelo Fernandes his fifth win in five games. They have the best overall record so far with 29 points in 11 games, while Corinthians have 26 and a game in hand. (Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Ian Ransom)