The confusingly-scheduled Copa Sul-Americana continued this week, with no fewer than four all-Brazilian clashes; half of which were decisive second legs. Goiás and Atlético Mineiro, despite their poor league positions, picked up wins to guarantee spots in the last sixteen, whilst Vitória and Avaí took control of their ties with impressive first leg victories.
Grêmio 0-2 Goiás
New Grêmio coach Renato Gaúcho started his reign in the worst possible fashion, seeing his team eliminated from continental competition at the once fortress-like Estádio Olímpico. A hero at the club due to his role in two state championship wins and an Intercontinental Cup title, Renato will need all the goodwill possible if he's to put an end to the Tricolor's recent woes. Despite the return from injury of attacking midfielder Souza, the home side turned in a sloppy performance and were deservedly beaten by Goiás.
With just 8 minutes on the clock, the Esmeraldino snatched the lead. Wendel Santos, in acres of space on the right, curled in a delightful cross for Amaral to head emphatically home. Grêmio, with Jonas all alone up front, looked startlingly bereft of ideas; indeed Renato Gaúcho would take time after the game to emphasise the need for Douglas, the one true creator of the side, to return to form. Grêmio huffed and puffed in midfield, but rarely threatened before the break.
The second half saw a slight improvement; Jonas, Maylson, and Souza all tested Goiás 'keeper Harlei, and the introduction of Hugo and André Lima gave the team added attacking threat. As the seconds ticked by, however, it became increasingly apparent that this wasn't to be Grêmio's night. Indeed, in the final minute of the ninety, Goiás landed a knock-out blow; Everton Santos smashing home after dancing through some non-existant defence from the home side. Goiás progress, while Grêmio must focus on their Série A form.
Copa Sul-Americana Round-up
In the week's other second leg, Atlético Mineiro left it late to sneak into the last sixteen, defeating Grêmio Prudente 1-0 at the Ipatingão. It was Ricardinho who made the difference for the Galo, finishing sweetly at the near post after some slack defending. Atlético will meet Caracas, Santa Fé, or Deportivo Lara in the next round, and will undoubtedly be pleased to have something to take their minds of their abject league form.
Santos came down to earth with a bang from their Copa do Brasil triumph, soundly beaten 3-1 by Avaí in an exciting game at the Pacaembu. With Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso only on the bench after their exploits with the seleção, Dorival Júnior handed rare starts to Madson and Zé Éduardo in attack. It was Avaí, though, who came flying out of the blocks; Rudnei's powerful drive opened the scoring after some head tennis on the box. Despite creating countless chances in the remainder of the first half, Santos couldn't find an equaliser, and were left with a mountain to climb when the visitors doubled their lead after the break. Vandinho raced clear after some hesitant Peixe defending, and flighted the deftest of chips over Felipe, who had just come on as a substitute after an injury to Rafael. Golaço!
The introduction of Neymar and Ganso predictably injected some life into the seasiders, who promptly pulled a goal back; Zé Éduardo finishing powerfully into the roof of the net after Neymar's surging run. The last word, however, would go to Avaí. Caio, in an absurb amount of space after a calamitous Santos offside trap, unselfishly squared the ball to Vandinho who tucked away his second of the evening. The Peixe have it all to do in the return leg.
Luiz Felipe's winless (re)start at Palmeiras continued, as the Verdão went down 2-0 to Vitória in Salvador. Ramon put the Leão ahead with a trademark free-kick in the opening minute of the second half, before Neto Coruja's header made it two in the dying minutes. Palmeiras will hope that the return of Chilean playmaker Jorge Valdivia will provide the catalyst for a return to winning ways in the coming weeks.
(Photo credits; (1) Gremio.net, (2) Agência Estado.)