Another full midweek schedule in Série A (THIS is what a busy schedule looks like, Premier League managers!) saw Fluminense again extend their lead over Corinthians at the top of the table, thanks to a convincing win over Goiás. São Paulo's troubles continued, as they slumped to a drowsy goalless draw against Vasco. Santos came from behind to beat Grêmio, but festivities were cut short with the news that playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso will be out until February with a knee injury.
São Paulo 0-0 Vasco
Sometimes you just choose the wrong game. I thought that Wednesday night's live offering on Globo would be a decent match; with São Paulo keen to resurrect a stuttering campaign against an in-form Vasco side. The result? Total, soul-crushing, deadlock. There was, perhaps, a hint of things to come in the starting XIs. Vasco were without Carlos Alberto (suspended), and shifted their other creative force, Felipe, to a berth at left-wing back. The home side too, were short of a playmaking influence; the Tricolor need to fill the Hernanes-shaped void in their line-up as soon as possible.
The home side should be given some credit; they dominated possession throughout and looked dangerous in the opening period. Ricardo Oliveira brought a reflex save from Fernando Prass after some good work from the pacy Marcelinho, and right-back Jean clipped the bar with a long-range free-kick. Vasco offered little - the strike pairing of Éder Luís and Zé Roberto hardly saw the ball - but defended well, especially down their right, where Fágner and Fernando dealt well with Júnior César and Fernandinho. It was Fernandinho who was at the centre of the half's most interesting incident; the forward managed to snap a corner flag in frustration, before himself repairing it minutes later.
Sérgio Baresi, São Paulo's interim coach, threw on Fernandão and Dagoberto in the second half, but to little effect. Jean saw a couple of efforts drift over, before Marcelinho drilled the game's best chance straight at Fernando Prass. These were rare moments, however, in a dire 45 minutes. Baresi's days in charge at the Morumbi were always likely to be numbered, but performances like this will only quicken the club's search for a new manager. High on the club's wanted list is Vanderlei Luxemburgo, but an initial approach from São Paulo was turned down in the week by his current club Atlético Mineiro.
Gameweek 16 Round-up
Fluminense's unstoppable form shows no sign of abating, as they blew away Goiás at the Serra Dourado. Portuguese midfielder Deco, excellent on his first start for Muricy Ramalho's side, created the opening goal, bending in a delightful cross for Washington to tap home. Emerson slotted home a second for the Tricolor, before Marquinho completed the scoring in the final minutes. Another Rio team on an impeccable run is Botafogo, who beat Ceará 1-0 at the Engenhão. Deadly striker Jóbson got the goal for O Glorioso, beating the offside trap before dinking a finish over Ceará 'keeper Diego.
Internacional travelled to Florianópolis to face Avaí, usually a tough proposition at home. The Colorado, however, managed to claim all three points, thanks to Índio's early header. Grêmio continue to flatter to deceive, throwing away a first half lead to go down 2-1 to Santos at the Olímpico. Borges put the home side ahead with a diving effort, but Neymar dragged the Peixe level from the penalty spot. The youngster's evening would prove a busy one; he later won and promptly missed a second spot-kick for his side, before contributing to the winning goal when his injury-time rebounded out for Rodriguinho to seal the comeback. The victory, however, was soured by the news that Paulo Henrique Ganso will be sidelined for up to six months with a cruciate ligament injury.
The attentive reader may have noticed that Belo Horizonte teams Cruzeiro and Atlético Mineiro currently seem to host games at different locations each week. This is due to some renovation work at the Mineirão (the stadium usually shared by the sides) in preparation for the 2014 World Cup. Having already made use of the Ipatingão and Arena do Jacaré, the roadshow rolled into the Parque do Sabiá (in Uberlândia) on Wednesday, where Cruzeiro hosted second-placed Corinthians. The Raposa have gained much more stability since the appointment of Cuca as coach, and battled to an impressive 1-0 win thanks to an early goal from Argentine midfielder Walter Montillo. Bruno César wasted the visitors' best chance to draw level, seeing his penalty saved by Cruzeiro goalkeeper Fábio.
Atlético Paranaense continued to put distance between themselves and the relegation zone, picking up a useful away win against Grêmio Prudente. Branquinho's stunning long-range strike was enough to secure the points for the Furacão, who now draw level on points with Palmeiras. The São Paulo giants slumped to a pathetic 3-0 home loss to lowly Atlético Goianiense, a result that could make life rather uncomfortable for Luiz Felipe Scolari. Elias was the hero for the Dragão, bagging a hattrick; an early penalty was followed by two classy left-footed finishes.
Flamengo, having scored only once in the previous five games, again failed to find the target, playing out a dull 0-0 draw with Atlético Mineiro at the Maracanã. Diogo, making his début for the Rubro-Negro since joining from Olympiakos, provided a hint of a silver lining with a promising performance. Guarani came from behind in Salvador to claim a 1-1 draw with Vitória. Júnior netted for the second consecutive match to put the Leão ahead, before Rômulo levelled from the penalty spot to earn the Bugre a point.
(Photo credits; (1) Tom Dib, (2) Carlos Costa, (3) Ricardo Nogueira/Folhapress.)