FOOTBALL: Brazil's performance eclipsed by referee

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BRAZIL, PLAYING their first game since the World Cup final, drew 1-1 with Yugoslavia in a friendly on Wednesday - but the match was marred by controversial refereeing from a Brazilian referee.

Attention had focused on how Brazil would play under their debutant coach Vanderley Luxemburgo, who is admired for the panache with which his club sides play.

Instead, commentators were left wondering why local officials had been apponited for the match, played in the northern city of Sao Luis. Yugoslavia, whose 10-man team celebrated their draw as if they had won the World Cup, were incensed when Sidrack Marinho sent off their midfielder Nenad Grozic in the 50th minute for a second bookable offence, a seemingly innocuous challenge on Brazil's Marcelino Carioca.

Shortly afterwards, the Yugoslav bench was up in arms after Savo Milosevic was denied an excellent chance to score by an offside flag, even though he appeared to be onside when the ball was played. A Brazilian touchline reporter quoted Yugoslav officials as saying they had left the matter of refereeing in the hands of the Brazilian Football Confederaton.

The game was lively in the first half but fell away after Grozic was dismissed. "It was the referee who spoiled the game," said the former Brazilian international, Rivelino.

Milovsevic, the former Aston Villa striker, had opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a superbly executed goal while Marcelinho replied from a free kick 11 minutes later.

"They didn't want to play after the sending-off," complained Luxemburgo. "They were playing anti-football. But it was a good test."

Luxemburgo, who replaced the sacked Mario Zagallo, gave debuts to the goalkeeper Andre, the midfielder Vampeta and the left-back Felipe, while Denilson, Rivaldo and Cafu were the only survivors from the team that played against France in the World Cup final. The defender Nenad Sakic and the midfielder Jovan Stankovic made their debuts for Yugoslavia in the starting line-up.

Luxemburgo barely had time to take his seat before seeing his team fall behind. Dejan Petkovic split the home defence with an incisive pass to Milosevic and the Real Zaragoza striker calmly chipped the ball over Andre to silence the home crowd.

Brazil responded by creating three good chances in a 10- minute spell, with Denilson missing one from point-blank range and Marcelinho seeing an effort well-saved by Ivica Krajl, before equalising in the 17th minute.

Marcelinho, whose only previous appearance was as a substitute against the same opponents four years ago, curled a free-kick around a badly-placed wall and the wrong-footed Krajl.

Rivaldo twice came close to putting Brazil ahead before half-time, hitting the crossbar with a long-range free-kick and then shooting weakly at Krajl after Vampeta had set him up by threading the ball through the middle of the defence.

Yugoslavia, surprisingly, had the better of the match after the sending- off, with Slavisa Jokanovic missing the best chance, a far post header from close range following a corner. In the last minute, the substitute Christian - a transfer target for Rangers - had an excellent chance to give Brazil victory but failed to connect properly.

Brazil: Andre; Cafu, Antonio Carlos, Cleber, Felipe (Serginho), Marcos Assuncao, Vampeta (Rogerio), Marcelinho (Jackson), Rivaldo (Christian), Muller, Denilson (Alex).

Yugoslavia: Krajl (Zilic); Ngegus (Nadj), Savic, Djukic, Djorovic, Stanovic (Sarac), Jokanovic, Grozdic, Petrovic (Curcic), Milosevic (Kovacevic), Mijatovic.

Referee: S Marinho (Brazil).