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Monday, 2 August 2010

São Paulo End Winless Run; All Square in Clássico Paulista

This Sunday in the Brasileirão had received plenty of hype during the previous week, with no fewer than four local derbies taking place around the country. Unfortunately, the day was rather a damp squib, with only three goals in those four matches. Fluminense were the only side in the top four to win, a result which sees them regain first position.

São Paulo 2-1 Ceará
Without a win since the 6th of June, the pressure was mounting on São Paulo coach Ricardo Gomes ahead of Saturday's tie with Ceará. With the all-important second leg of their Libertadores semi-final coming up on Thursday, there were suggestions that a loss here could spur the club's directors to dismiss Gomes and turn to another manager to motivate the team. This result, then, while potentially only a momentary moment of calm before the storm (should São Paulo lose to Inter), ought to steady the ship somewhat.

Ricardo Oliveira hurdles Diego after his delicate finish.

Gomes, usually a proponent of a 3-5-2 system, decided to alter the shape of his side, shifting Xandão to the right of a back four and moving Jean into midfield. The tactic worked early on; the midfield axis of Jean and Cléber Santana allowed Hernanes and the excellent Marlos more freedom to provide support to Fernandinho and débutant Ricardo Oliveira, the former Betis and Milan striker. The Tricolor looked lively and created a number of chances early on; only some wasteful finishing and some alert goalkeeping from Ceará's Diego kept the teams level.

The home side would have to wait until the second period to get the goal their play deserved. After 65 minutes, half time substitute Fernandão leapt in fine style to head home Hernanes' outswinging corner to send the Morumbi into raptures. Within three minutes, the lead was doubled. After the breakdown of a move in midfield, Ceará were left exposed as Dagoberto's precise through-ball released Ricardo Oliveira. The forward kept his nerve; clipping a fabulous finish over the 'keeper and into the net. The Vovô set a up a nervy climax to the game thanks to Erick Flores' well-taken finish, but São Paulo held on for a deserved win.

Palmeiras 1-1 Corinthians
Still looking for his first win on the Palmeiras bench (he watched Gameweek 8's victory over Santos from the stands), Luiz Felipe Scolari may harbour some regrets when he looks back on Sunday's clássico. Having recovered from a shaky start, the Verdão looked in good shape to snatch a victory in the second half, but had to settle for a point after some oddly negative substitutions disrupted their rhythm.

Corinthians, coached for the first time by Adílson Batista (an old cohort of Felipão's), took control early on, thanks largely to strong performances from Jucilei, Ralf, and Elias in midfield. Bruno César took up a more advanced role, charged with supporting Jorge Henrique and Iarley (the Brazilian Paul Dickov) in attack. That trio combined brilliantly to open the scoring after 20 minutes; Iarley played Bruno César into space down the right, and the No.10's low cross was flicked impudently home by Jorge Henrique. Replays showed the winger to have been marginally offside when Bruno delivered the cross.

Palmeiras' Kléber (left) holds off a challenge from Corinthians captain William.

Palmeiras, however, started to get a foothold in the tie. Playmaker Lincoln provided a headache for the Timão defenders, drifting into space and combining intelligently with Kléber in attack. On 33 minutes, Lincoln wriggled free of his marker and found Danilo on the right. The defender's tempting cross was powerfully met by Kléber, who brought a diving save from Júlio César in the Corinthians goal. The ball, however, fell kindly for Edinho, who smashed the ball home from close range.

For the remainder of the first period and the start of the second, Palmeiras looked by far the more likely to claim all three points; Ewerton twice had goals chalked off after straying offside. Strangely, though, Scolari decided to replace Lincoln, easily the Verdão's best performer, with youngster Tinga. Ewerton too was brought off minutes later. Surely enough, Palmeiras' threat (as well as the excitement of spectacle as a whole) was diminished, and the scoreline finished 1-1.

Gameweek 12 Round-up
Fluminense profitted from the Corinthians result to return to the top of Série A, beating Atlético-PR 3-1 at the Maracanã. Washington, making his second début for the club, netted a brace; two easy finishes after assists from the superb Darío Conca. The player they call Coração Valente (braveheart - the big forward overcame a heart problem to continue his career) then turned provider, playing in Emerson to smash home. Bruno Mineiro headed in a late consolation for the Furacão. In Saturday's final game, Guarani held Atlético-GO at the Serra Dourada. Rodrigo Tiuí put Atlético ahead with a diving header, but Mazola levelled with a fine individual effort.

Sunday, then; three more derbies, and only one more goal. Vasco earnt a creditable 0-0 draw with Flamengo at the Maracanã largely due to a sensational goalkeeping display from Fernando Prass. In one particular sequence towards the end of the game, the stopper managed to deny Vinícius Pacheco, Cristian Borja, and Juan, all of whom looked set to score. The draw maintains PC Gusmão's unbeaten record in this Brasileiro (both with Vasco and Ceará). In the Gre-Nal clássico in Porto Alegre, an Inter side lacking a number of titulares (rested ahead of the Libertadores clash with São Paulo) was held to a goalless draw by Grêmio at the Beira-Rio. In Sete Lagoas, it was Cruzeiro who scraped a 1-0 win over Atlético-MG in the Minas Gerais derby. Wellington Paulista's stunning long-range strike leaves the Galo languishing in 19th place.

Wellington shoots; the Cruzeiro striker (left) celebrates his winner.

In anticipation of Wednesday's Copa do Brasil final second leg, both Santos and Vitória lined up with weakened sides in their matches, against Grêmio Prudente and Botafogo respectively. Santos rode their luck to beat the Abelha 2-1 at the Prudentão. Midfielders Danilo and Rodriguinho both netted glorious efforts from distance to put the seasiders in the driving seat, but Róbson pulled one back for Prudente. The home side then had ample opportunity to get something from the game, but contrived to miss two penalties in the last five minutes. On a shocking Barradão surface, Vitória and Botafogo looked to be heading towards a goalless draw, but a crazy three minute period late on produced no fewer than three goals. After good work from Maicosuel (newly returned to the Engenhão club after a spell in Germany with Hoffenheim), Edno put the Glorioso ahead with a deadly volley. Júnior headed home an equaliser for Vitória, but Jóbson deftly turned home Marcelo Mattos' cross to restore Botafogo's lead. The win was secured in injury time, when Jóbson bagged his second of the match; smashing home despite the attentions of three defenders.

In the last of Sunday's games, Avaí continued their impressive progress up the table with a convincing 4-1 win over Goiás. Émerson headed the Leão da Ilha a ninth minute lead, before Davi benefitted from a botched clearance (which smashed into the face of an unlucky Goiás midfielder) to double the advantage just a minute later. The Goiás defenders were in a generous mood; Rafael Tolói gifted possession to Davi who rifled home the third. Bernardo pulled one back for the Esmeraldino with a delightful strike, but Robinho Signorini, a clever little player on loan from Santos, rounded off the scoring from close range.

(Photo credits; (1) Miguel Schincariol, (2) Eduardo Viana, (3) Ramon Bitencourt.)

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