The second round of the Brasileirão was completed this weekend, and among the big stories were important wins for two under-pressure managers.
Fluminense 1-0 Atlético-GO
Muricy Ramalho's reputation as one of Brazil's top managers is not under threat, but in recent weeks, his future at the Laranjeiras has been. Job security among coaches in Brazil is flimsy to non-existent, and without a win since he took over at Flu in late April, the vultures were already circling. Relief, then, was palpable after the final whistle brought Saturday's game to a close, the Tricolor having scraped a win over Atlético Goianiense.
With Fred still out, new signing Rodriguinho was given a début. The striker impressed during the Campeonato Paulista, helping Santo André to the runners-up spot. His partner at the Maracanã was André Lima, with Conca the main supplier from midfield. Atlético rested a couple of players with half an eye on their Copa do Brasil game in midweek.
The game itself was nothing to write home about. Fluminense had the greater attacking impetus, but created little. They can be an infuriating side to watch, with midfielders who seem to have no positional instructions other than "CLUSTER IN THE MIDDLE!" The lack of width meant Rodriguinho and André Lima received nothing but straight back-to-front passes all game, hardly ideal for a partnership of two physically slight finishers. The return of Fred and the potential signing of Deco would undoubtedly be an improvement in terms of personnel (especially if the latter takes the place of the haphazard Diguinho), but on this evidence, a change of shape is of more fundamental importance.
The tie was settled in the second half by a strike from Marquinho, whose shot sneaked under Edson in the Atlético goal. It was a scruffy winner, worthy of a scrappy game, but Muricy won't mind in the slightest. With games against Coritinthians and Flamengo within the next fortnight, however, the vultures may not stay away for long.
Grêmio 1-2 Corinthians
Corinthians coach Mano Menezes has also been the target of supporters' discontent of late, but Sunday's victory at the Olímpico should go some way to appeasing his critics. The football played by the Timão is indeed far more pragmatic than at stages last year (Menezes currently favours the midfield trio of Ralf, Elias, and Jucilei, none of whom are particularly creative), but with results like this one, it is surely only a matter of time before the fans get behind their manager.
Things were spiced up prior to kick-off with the news that Douglas, a playmaker who shone at the Pacaembu last term (and whom Corinthians strangely turned down the chance to re-sign) was named in the home team's line-up. The Grêmio No.10 has been in thrilling form recently, and Menezes would have been forgiven for fearing a pointed reminder of what their side was missing. He need not have worried; without the support of first-choice strikers Borges and Jonas (rested for the Brazilian cup semi-final), Douglas made little impact.
It was Corinthians who took the lead in the first period, when Ralf rose to head home a Dentinho corner. Grêmio 'keeper Victor, still rueing his omission from Brazil's World Cup squad, got a hand to it, and probably should have done better. The lead was doubled midway through the second half through Souza, who had been wasteful up to that point. Dentinho again provided the assist, but it was a glorious miskick from Tricolor left-back Bruno Collaço which allowed Souza to prod in from close range.
Grêmio, keen to maintain their magnificent home record (they were unbeaten at the Olímpico in last season's Série A) pressed for a goal, and were rewarded when substitute Maylson slotted home. Corinthians, however, held on for the last 15 minutes, and stand atop the Campeonato Brasileiro with the only 100% record. If they can keep this up, Menezes will prove his doubters wrong.
Gameweek 2 Round-up
Flamengo travelled to Salvador to meet Vitória on Saturday evening. On a water-logged pitch (Fla must be warming up with a rain dance or something...), the visitors went ahead; Leão 'keeper Vinicius could only palm Adriano's dangerous cross onto the chest of the incoming Vágner Love, who diverted it into the net. The Rubro-Negro lead for 83 minutes, but were denied the win by a brilliant Elkeson free-kick for Vitória.
Saturday's third game produced the shock of the round, as Grêmio Prudente (fresh from losing 6-1 to Avaí) thrashed Atlético-MG 4-0. All the goals came in the first half, with Araújo, Flavinho, Henrique Dias, and Diego Giaretta getting on the score-sheet. Galo defender Werley later admitted that his team had performed awfully, having started at "5km per hour." Vanderlei Luxemburgo has a lot to think about this week.
On Sunday, Santos were held to a 1-1 draw by new boys Ceará. It was the visitors who took the lead at the Vila Belmiro, when Washington headed home unmarked. Neymar equalised from the spot, after tumbling under what appeared a fair challenge. Seemingly unsatisfied with one paradinha, the youngster threw two into his run-up and sent the 'keeper the wrong way. This penalty technique (quite unfair, in my view) is a double-edged sword; the taker looks good when successful, but rather silly if things go wrong. So it was with Santos' second penalty, late on in the game. This time, Diego in the Ceará goal decided not to dive, and Neymar pulled his shot wide.
At the Serra Dourada, Internacional recovered from a 2 goal deficit to beat Goias 3-2. Young striker Walter was the star of the show; scoring a penalty, adding a glorious second, and winning another spot-kick from which Giuliano bagged the winner. Botafogo also produced a stirring comeback against São Paulo at the Morumbi. Léo Lima headed the home side ahead, but late goals from Antônio Carlos (the defender's third in two games) and Renato Cajá gave all three points to O Glorioso.
The remaining three games all ended in draws. Vasco and Palmeiras played out a dire goalless draw at the São Januário; 90 minutes I'll never get back. At the Mineirão, Cruzeiro and Avaí produced rather more excitement. Pará and Roberto gave the visitors a 2-0 half-time lead, but a Wellington Paulista brace earnt the Raposa a point. In Curitiba, Atlético-PR drew 2-2 with Guarani. A Netinho free-kick for the home side cancelled out Roger's opener for the Bugre, before the sides traded penalties in the second half. Roger scored his to put Guarani into the lead for a second time, but veteran striker Alex Mineiro kept his cool to earn Atlético a point.
(Photo credits; (1) Fluminense.com.br, (2) Ricardo Rimoli, (3) Internacional.com.br.)