The Campeonato Brasileiro threw up another exciting set of midweek fixtures, not least the first-vs-second clash between Fluminense and Corinthians at the Engenhão. The São Paulo giants scraped a narrow victory, a result that sees them go level on points with their rivals with a game in hand. The rest of the top six also picked up wins, with the exception of Botafogo, whose good form was brought to an abrupt end by Goiás.
Fluminense 1-2 Corinthians
A couple of weeks ago, one might have thought that the winner of this match would have one hand on the Série A title; the two had built up a substantial gap between them and the chasing pack of clubs. Times change, however, and the result, although providing a boost to Corinthians, doesn't look so decisive; Cruzeiro sit just one point behind the pair, with Botafogo, Inter, and Santos all within touching distance. Corinthians' game in hand, then, could yet prove a crucial factor in the title race.
Timão coach Adílson Batista welcomed back Roberto Carlos and Alessandro for the trip to Rio, but again had to make do without Ronaldo, deemed unfit to make the matchday squad. Fluminense were again missing strikers Fred and Emerson, and thus continued with their intriguing 3-4-2-1 formation, with Deco and Conca fluttering around behind Washington in attack.
In a tense opening period, Corinthians succeeded in stifling Flu's usual attacking threat; the Tricolor's only noteworthy effort came from Deco, who couldn't keep his shot down after a fabulous one-two with Conca. As the half wore on, it was Corinthians who began to look the more dangerous; Paulinho drilling just wide of the near post, and Bruno César popping up all around the pitch. The Timão's pressure paid off on the stroke of half time, when Jucilei put them ahead. After a free-kick routine seemed to unravel, the athletic midfielder chested down Elias' cross before volleying a low finish past Fernando Henrique.
Muricy Ramalho rearranged his side at the break, switching to a 4-4-2 with the introduction of Rodriguinho. The attacker nearly made an immediate impression, but could only shoot straight at Corinthians 'keeper Júlio César with the goal beckoning. It was a miss that the home side would live to regret; within fifteen minutes, they found themselves two down, and with a mountain to climb. Alessandro, Corinthians' excellent right-back, was the architect; surging forward and swapping passes with Elias, before squaring for Iarley to slide into the empty net. Flu dragged themselves back into contention when Washington tapped home from close range, but the dye was cast; Corinthians held on for an invaluable three points.
Gameweek 22 Round-up
Cruzeiro's win over Guarani saw them cement their position just behind the leaders; they move to within a point of the Brasileirão summit. In an enjoyable game at the Arena do Jacaré, it was the Raposa who took control, thanks to Rômulo's header and a lovely team move finished off by Wallyson (great name, that). Events heated up towards the end of the half; Guarani manager Vágner Mancini and star player Mazola were both inexplicably dismissed by referee Wallace Nascimento Valente. Guarani stayed in contention thanks largely to an amazing series of saves by Douglas, before sensationally drawing level in the second period; Geovane and Paulo Roberto beating Cruzeiro goalkeeper Rafael. The home side finally got the result their performance merited, though, as headers from Fabinho and Ernesto Farías sealed a 4-2 victory.
Dragão into a commanding position, but the seasiders struck four times in fourty minutes to claim the points. Edu Dracena headed home from Neymar's free-kick to get the comeback underway, before Madson's low drive brought the Peixe level. Promising youngster Alan Patrick added a third with a cool finish, and Marcel rounded things off from the penalty spot after Neymar was brought down in the box. It was another controversial evening for the latter, who had a heated exchange with his coach Dorival Júnior after the final whistle.
The Arena da Baixada played host to a clash of two Atléticos; home side Atlético Paranaense claimed a 2-1 over Atlético Mineiro thanks to a late strike from Paraguayan Ivan González. The tie had up to that point been defined by two headers from fine deliveries; Bruno Mineiro had (confusingly, given his name) put the Paraná club ahead from Paulo Baier's corner, and Obina had equalised for the Galo, nodding home Daniel Carvalho's wicked cross. González's goal pushed the Furacão up to seventh in the table, overtaking Ceará who could only manage a goalless draw with Vitória.
Palmeiras put an end to Grêmio's fine run (and ruined the club's 107th anniversary), scraping a 2-1 win in Porto Alegre. Marcos Assunção's delightful free-kick gave the Verdão an early lead, and Ewerton's diving header doubled their advantage. The home side rallied with a late Jonas volley, but had no time to find an equaliser. That result allowed Flamengo to join Grêmio on 26 points, after the Rubro-Negro won for the first time since the 14th of August. It looked as though their miserable run was set to continue when Adriano Pimenta headed Grêmio Prudente ahead on the stroke of half time, but late goals from Diego Maurício and Toró sealed an unlikely comeback. Hopefully Flamengo can learn a lesson from Maurício's impact; the youngster showed glimpses of potential earlier in the campaign, only to be relegated to the bench by a series of signings. Not one of Val Baiano, Cristian Borja, Leandro Amaral, Diogo, or Deivid, however, has got off the mark for the club. Sometimes, even in the pressure cooker that is Flamengo, youth deserves a chance.
Goiás continued their renaissance under Dunga's former seleção assistant Jorginho, routing a previously in-form Botafogo 4-1 at the Serra Dourada. Wellington Monteiro's deflected effort and a Rafael Moura tap-in put the Esmeraldino in control, but 'Loco' Abreu reduced the arrears after good work by Edno. Goiás were not to be denied, however, and Rafael Moura (from the penalty spot) and Bernardo netted further goals. Vasco stay unbeaten under PC Gusmão, but will be disappointed with a result of 1-1 against Avaí, their eleventh draw of the campaign. Ramon headed the Gigante da Colina into a first half lead, but Caio levelled late on for the visitors.
São Paulo must hate playing Internacional; on Thursday night the Porto Alegre side rubbed salt in the Tricolor's Libertadores wounds with a 3-1 win at the Morumbi. Wilson Mathias put the visitors ahead after Andrés D'Alessandro's free-kick had created havok in the São Paulo area, but Cléber Santana levelled matters with a controlled header. Leandro Damião, whose ascent gathers pace with every game, bagged Inter's second; a glorious chipped finish after good build-up from Tinga and Giuliano. The latter then got in on the act himself, instinctively firing in a shot that deceived Rogério Ceni.
Results; Cruzeiro 4-2 Guarani, Santos 4-2 Atlético-GO, Grêmio 1-2 Palmeiras, Atlético-PR 2-1 Atlético-MG, Goiás 4-1 Botafogo, Fluminense 1-2 Corinthians, Vitória 0-0 Ceará, Grêmio Prudente 1-2 Flamengo, Vasco 1-1 Avaí, São Paulo 1-3 Internacional.
(Photo credits; (1) Cleber Mendes, (2) Ivan Storti, (3) Carlos Costa.)