Every silver lining has a cloud, and in Muricy Ramalho's case, the blot on the horizon happens to be the World Cup. It seems strange to speak of the world's greatest sporting event in such terms, being, as I am, damn near incapacitated with excitement, but for Ramalho it comes at a bad time. His Fluminense side sit proudly in third place in the Campeonato Brasileiro, having stormed to a fourth consective win on Sunday. He will be dreading that the five week lay-off will disrupt what is undoubtedly Flu's best form of the past twelve months, a run which has provoked hopes of a Libertadores place, or even (whisper it) a title challenge.
Avaí 0-3 Fluminense
At the Ressacada on Saturday, the Tricolor added some style to their recent resilience. A blitz of three classy goals (one before, and two just after the interval) proved far too much for an Avaí side who waved goodbye to a 25 game unbeaten run at home. Despite his recent heroics, Alan again took his place among the substitutes, with Fred and Rodriguinho starting up front for Flu. The away side started flew out of the blocks, with Fred hitting the woodwork early on, but were made to wait for their opening goal. It came through Leandro Euzébio, who found himself with space to control and finish at the far post after Carlinhos' whipped cross.
Just four minutes into the second period, Carlinhos reprised his role as provider. The left back powered forward, exchanged passes with Rodriguinho and floated in a delicate cross for the onrushing Fred. The former Lyon forward gleefully buried the easiest of headers. Flu were flying, and quickly made it three. It was Alan, again making an impact off the bench, who applied the finish after a lightening-fast break involving Mariano and Fred. With the three points secure, Muricy's men took their foot off the gas, but Avaí couldn't manage a goal to reignite the contest.
Santos 4-0 Vasco
The Peixe started slowly at Sunday's tie at the Vila Belmiro, and almost went behind when the nimble Philippe Coutinho swapped passes with Nílson only to see his shot brilliantly saved by Rafael. Santos sprung into life midway through the opening period, and were awarded a penalty after a classic 'what happened next?' moment. Vasco goalkeeper Fernando Prass rolled the ball in front of himself in order to clear downfield, only to watch in horror as Santos left-back Léo appeared from behind him to pinch it. Trying desperately to recover, Prass lunged for the ball but got nowhere near it, bringing Léo down in the process. André dispatched the penalty powerfully into the corner.
Santos doubled their advantage on 51 minutes through substitute Maranhão, who rifled home at the second attempt after his first shot was blocked. The home side suddenly looked like they could score from every attack, and the prolilfic André soon grabbed his second. Receiving a clever through-ball from Madson, the striker calmly guided a first-time finish past the despairing 'keeper. Madson then got on the scoresheet himself, turning home after some determined wing-play by youngster Zezinho. It was an important result for Santos after two games without a win, and one that sees them lurking in fourth spot as Série A goes into World Cup hibernation.
Gameweek 7 Round-up
In Saturday's other games, Vitória and Goiás battled to wins over Atlético-PR and Flamengo respectively. Schwenk's firm header gave Vitória a 1-0 win which lifted them out of the bottom four at their opponents' expense. Flamengo thought they'd done enough to scrape a win at the Maracanã, having led for most of the second half through Toró's goal, but were stunned by two late Goiás goals. Hugo bent in a glorious free-kick to equalise before Otacílio Neto snuck in to bury a rebound late on.
Corinthians and Ceará share the lead of the Brasileirão going into the World Cup break, after the former could only manage a draw against Botafogo. In truth, they were lucky to get that much, only finding an equaliser with the game's final kick. Man of the moment Bruno César had given the Timão a one-goal lead at the break, but Botafogo to reacted well with goals from Renato Cajá and Lúcio Flávio, the latter an emphatic exclamation mark at the end of a thrilling break. However, Alvinegro hearts were to be broken deep into injury time, when Paulo André rose to head home Matías Defederico's corner. There were no such fireworks at the Mineirão, where Ceará battled to their fourth 1-0 victory of the season over Atlético-MG. The outstanding Misael was once again heavily involved, turning his marker inside-out before crossing for Washington to score. Another poor result for the Galo, for whom the break in Série A can't come soon enough.
Fellow new boys Guarani also continued their impressive form, grinding out a 1-0 win over Grêmio Prudente at the Brinco de Ouro. Striker Roger bagged his sixth of the campaign from the penalty spot with the very last kick of the game. As predicted by this very blog, the loanee from São Paulo is proving a big hit with the Bugre. Atlético Goianiense picked up their first win of the season, beating an increasingly lacklustre Cruzeiro side 2-1 at the Serra Dourada. Wellington Paulista had levelled for the Raposa after Rodrigo Tiuí's opener, but a late goal from Pedro Paulo guaranteed all three points for the home side.
Dagoberto netted a hat-trick for São Paulo as they romped to a 3-1 win over perenially bad travellers Grêmio. Hugo put the Tricolor gaúcho ahead early on with a smart volley, but some persistence and an accurate cross from Marlos gave Dagoberto the simplest of finishes to equalise. Rogério Ceni ought to have made it two from the penalty spot after some shirt-tugging in the box, but his spot-kick rattled against the bar and rebounded to safety. The goalkeeper soon made amends at the other end, however, pulling off a magnificent reaction save to deny Douglas. Dagoberto scored his second with a controlled volley after the Grêmio defence failed to deal with Hernanes' chipped pass, and grabbed his third just minutes later. Marlos' wonderful run merited a goal, but his shot cannoned off the post into the path of the man São Paulo fans call 'Dagol,' who provided a cool finish worthy of his nickname.
Internacional continued their stuttering form with a 1-1 draw against Palmeiras at the Beira-Rio. The Verdão took the lead through Lincoln, whose met Ewerton's knock-down with a well-struck volley. Despite playing some slick football, Inter had to wait until well into the second half to equalise; Giuliano kept his cool to drill into the corner after his original shot had been blocked by his marker. Inter now find themselves down in 16th place, but at least they now have a window of opportunity in which to appoint a permanent replacement for Jorge Fossati. Every cloud has a silver lining.
(Photo credits; (1) Cristiano Andujar, (2) Ivan Storti, (3) Miguel Schincariol.)