It was a big night of action, with Libertadores games and two quarter-finals of the Brazilian Cup. Undoubtedly the tie of the evening was at the Maracanã...
Flamengo 1-0 Corinthians (Libertadores)
Brazil's two best supported clubs can consider themselves rather unlucky to draw each other in the first knockout round of this season's competition. Each has the quality to reach the latter stages of the Libertadores, but Flamengo let down their side of the deal; they qualified from the group stages with the worst record, sealing a date with the top qualifier, Corinthians. The build-up to the game saw much of the attention placed on Ronaldo; viewed as a Judas by Flamengo fans because he signed for Corinthians after a period of recovery at the Rio club. He was, somewhat amusingly, to be greeted at the Maracanã by a group of transvestites, in reference to certain off-field antics in 2008. Only in Brazil!
Despite the fanfare, however, the star of the first half was...the weather. Lashed with rain, the pitch soon deteriorated into a marsh, utterly inconducive to passing football. Flamengo managed the better of the rare goalscoring opportunities; Léo Moura's effort curled just wide and Vágner Love headed straight at Julio Cesar.
Conditions improved in the second period and the game followed suit; Adriano acrobatically volleyed over after a free-kick had bounced onto the bar. Ronaldo was struggling to have much impact up front for Corinthians, and perhaps his best chance slipped away when he miscontrolled a high ball with the goal beckoning.
Much has been made of o Fenômeno's physical condition since his return to Brazil, and similar concerns have started to surface over Adriano. The latter looked severely unfit last night, and Flamengo only have themselves to blame; they have displayed a soft touch with a player who regularly misses training. Yet after 65 minutes, o Imperador, as so often for Flamengo, was decisive; calmly tucking away a penalty after left-back Juan had been felled. It would prove to be the winner.
Corinthians toiled away, but could not break down the Rubro-Negro. Ronaldo created a presentable chance at the death, but Iarley contrived to waste it; misdirecting a header when the onrushing Jorge Henrique was better placed. First blood, then, to Flamengo, thanks to their out of shape talisman. Corinthians will be hoping that theirs will make the difference in the return leg.
São Paulo travelled to Lima to face Universitario, and despite having the better of the game, failed to make a breakthrough. São Paulo went close when Cicinho's thumping drive rebounded off the foot of the post, but the real talking-point of the game was Richarlyson's red card. The Tricolor midfielder was involved in a forceful collision with la U's Espinoza, leaving both sprawling in agony. It looked as though Richarlyson was nominally the innocent party, but it was he who received a second yellow for the incident. What proceeded was uglier still; the Brazilian threw a strop at the referee and needed to be restrained by his team mates. Despite this 0-0 draw, São Paulo are in poll position to progress at home.
Internacional met Banfield at the latter's Florencio Sola stadium hoping for an away goal to build on. They managed exactly that with a gorgeous volley from Kleber, but the team from Porto Alegre were deservedly beaten by 3 goals to 1. The nicely-named James Rodríguez, a potential future star on Banfield's left wing, put them ahead early in the second half, and Inter's equaliser was followed by further goals by Battión and Fernández. They have work to do at the Beira-Rio.
Copa do Brasil Round-up
In domestic matters, Atlético-MG beat Santos in the biggest of the evening's cup quarter-final first legs. Once again, it was Diego Tardelli who made the difference for the Galo, scoring all of their goals in a 3-2 victory. The first, a flick that Santos 'keeper Felipe should have done better with, was followed by an effort which just crept over the line. Atlético's lead was reduced by Robinho, taking advantage of some pedestrian defending to stab home. In the second period, Tardelli completed his hat-trick, arriving in the box late to finish confidently . The complexion of the tie was altered late on, however, when Edu Dracena turned in a cross for Santos, who with two away goals, will be confident of making the semi-finals.
In the other game, Vitória took advantage of an awful performance by Vasco to gain a 2-0 advantage. Renato and Neto Berola scored the goals, late in the first and second halfs respectively.
(Photo credits; (1) & (2) EFE.)