São Paulo giants Corinthians continue to set the early pace in the Campeonato Brasileiro, after beating fellow contenders Santos on Sunday aftertoon. Flamengo and Grêmio, both of whom also harbour title ambitions, could only manage a draw at the Maracanã.
Corinthians 4-2 Santos
The country's most in-form teams produced an enthralling spectacle and plenty of goals at the Pacaembu. Despite the absence of Robinho and Ronaldo (the former in South Africa, the latter rested for reasons both physical and psychological), both managers fielded strong sides; Santos lined up with Wesley, Arouca, and Marquinhos in the middle, freeing up Paulo Henrique to push forward, while Corinthians packed the midfield behind Jorge Henrique and Dentinho in attack.
Barely two minutes had passed when the home side took the lead. Bruno César, making his first start since arriving from Santo André, rifled in a low shot which Felipe could only palm away. Jorge Henrique reacted the quickest, and snuck a shot under the Corinthians 'keeper before he could regain his bearings. The Timão continued to press, and were unlucky not to get a second when Jorge Henrique's header hit the bar. Santos gradually built up some momentum towards the end of the half, but entered the changing rooms 1-0 down.
The Peixe finally levelled just after the break, when André received a pass from the underrated Marquinhos and hit a shot that trickled in via the inside of the post. Parity lasted for only a minute, however. Jucilei's cross to the far post found Bruno César, who took a touch before drilling home emphatically. The goal marked a promising performance from the midfielder, one which suggested that he could fill the creative boots vacated by Douglas nearly a year ago.
Corinthians extended their lead through Ralf, who profited from some static defending to stride forward and stroke home. He and Dentinho celebrated in amusing fashion, pretending to reel in fish on invisible rods. Substitute Madson should have brought Santos back into the game soon after, but inexplicably sliced wide with only the 'keeper to beat. Corinthians were in ruthless mood, and duly punished their opponents' profligacy; Paulinho scored with a powerful header following Roberto Carlos' cross. Santos did manage a second in the dying moments, but Marcel's headed effort was little more than a consolation by that stage.
Flamengo 1-1 Grêmio
An exciting game at the Maracanã was lit up by Flamengo's veteran playmaker Dejan Petkovic, who celebrated his new contract with the club in style. It was the Serbian who gave the Rubro-Negro an early lead on Saturday night, arrowing an impeccable left-footed volley into the roof of the net after Vágner Love's header had hit the post. 'Pet' was at the centre of everything Flamengo created, carving out some lovely through-balls and making well-timed bursts into the box. Fla could have ended the half three or four goals up, but some poor finishing and the linesman's flag (Vágner Love had a goal chalked off for offside) meant that the score remained 1-0.
Early in the second period, Vágner Love really should have doubled the advantage. Receiving a defence-splitting ball from Petkovic (who else?!), the striker could only shoot into the 'keeper's legs with the goal begging. Minutes later, Grêmio were level. Fábio Rochemback curled in a corner from the right, and Rodrigo climbed highest to score with a header. Things could have got worse for the home side; Hugo twice tested Bruno with stinging efforts, and Jonas contrived to smash over when it looked easier to score. By the end, Flamengo were probably happy to cling on to the draw, despite it leaving them 12th in the table.
Gameweek 5 Round-up
The Brasileirão looked to be suffering from a hangover after a midweek goal binge; the other two games on Saturday both ended 0-0. Avaí, Vitória, Palmeiras and Grêmio Prudente were the guilty parties. Guarani and São Paulo followed suit on Sunday.
One team, however, can always be relied on to score and/or concede plenty. Step forward Atlético-MG, who slipped to a 3-1 home defeat to Fluminense. Muriqui finished off a typically flowing move involving Ricardinho and Coelho to put the Galo ahead, but it was Fluminense who dominated the second period. Marquinho's corner was headed home by Gum, before Alan's shot from a tight angle was fumbled in by Atlético goalkeeper Marcelo. In injury time, Fred exchanged a intricate set of passes with Alan before smashing home to seal the win.
Internacional also came to life in the second half, beating Atlético-PR 4-1 at the Beira-Rio. The opener was tapped in by a combination of Alecsandro and Walter, both of whom tried to claim the goal by celebrating more convincingly than the other. Gonzalo Sorondo made it two from fully three centimetres out, before Andrezinho volleyed home following slick build-up from Guiñazu and Walter. Alecsandro smashed home from a tight angle for Inter's fourth, and Manoel nicked a late consolation for the Furacão.
Ceará remain in second place after an impressive 1-0 against Cruzeiro. The only goal flew into the roof of the net from Lopes, after another lovely run and assist by the skillful Misael. The newly promoted side are unlikely to remain near the top of the table, but their early season performances have rightly drawn plaudits. Lowly Goiás claimed their first win of the season, beating Atlético-GO 3-1 away from home. Elias scored from the spot for Atlético following the most clear-cut penalty decision you're ever likely to see, but the Esmeraldino responded in style. Romerito slammed in their equaliser, and grabbed a second following a determined run. Bernado wrapped up the victory after receiving Douglas' smart pass.
At the Engenhão, Vasco doggedly earnt a draw against Botafogo. An exciting opening period saw Herrera and Nilton waste clear chances, and Lúcio Flávio denied a clear penalty after tunbling in the box. Vasco took the lead through Ernani, who dribbled from deep, swapped passes with Philippe Coutinho, and calmly finished past Jefferson. The lead lasted for just ten minutes. Botafogo were awarded a spot-kick after Nilton handled in the box, and Herrera made no mistake, powerfully finishing from 12 yards. Jéferson appeared to have netted a second for Vasco in the second period, but his goal was oddly ruled out by the linesman. The away side were rightly aggrieved, but in truth, 1-1 was a fair reflection of a balanced clash.
(Photo credits; (1) Miguel Schinchariol, (2) Maurício Val/Vipcomm, (3) Agência Estado.)