Obina celebrates his hat-trick goal for Atlético Mineiro.
Atlético's local rivals Cruzeiro have enjoyed a comparatively smooth season, building on a solid start to mount a title push in recent weeks. The tactical nous of Cuca, coupled with the mercurial talents of Argentine playmaker Walter Montillo, has propelled the Raposa into the position of real Serie A contenders; they entered the derby in first place in the table, despite last week's loss to Grêmio.
Atlético came flying out of the traps, and sensationally raced to a three goal lead within thirty minutes. Two goals from Obina got the scoring underway; the forward stylishly converted Leandro's left-wing cross, before profitting from some indecision among the Cruzeiro defence to steer past Fábio. The Raposa were then presented with a golden chance to reduce the arrears, but Montillo contrived to miss the target with a cheeky chipped penalty. The No.10 looked understandably embarrassed, and his misery was compounded by another ruthless Galo attack; Serginho skipped clear on the right before squaring for Obina to complete his hat-trick. Cruzeiro were reeling, although they did manage to pull one back before the break when former Tottenham man Gilberto crashed home from the edge of the area.
The chances continued to flow in the second period, and Cruzeiro went twice close through Ernesto Farías and Marquinhos Paraná. Atlético, though, would land one more sucker punch on their opponents; Rever rose highest from a corner to give the Galo a 4-1 lead with just a quarter of the match remaining. Cruzeiro, to their credit, rallied with a Thiago Ribeiro brace, but were frustrated by some stubborn Atletico defending in the final minutes. A great win for Dorival Júnior's charges, and a spanner in the works of Cruzeiro's title hopes.
Gameweek 31 Round-up
After eight consecutive draws (!), Botafogo finally picked up maximum points, beating Vitória at the Engenhão. Left wing-back Marcelo Cordeiro scored the game's only goal, bending home a sumptuous free-kick from 25 yards. The result saw Vitória slip into the relegation zone after Atlético Goianiense's 1-0 win over Guarani. Marcão made the difference for the Dragão, slotting a finish under Douglas in the Guarani goal. Avai are also in deep trouble at the bottom; the Florianópolis side went down to a Bernado penalty against Goiás.
Ceará put an end to São Paulo's resurgent form, beating the Tricolor 2-0 in baking hot conditions at the Castelão. Magno Alves put the Vozão ahead with a firm header, before Diego Sacoman's rocket from distance sealed the three points. In another midtable clash, Flamengo came from behind to hold Vasco in the clássico Carioca. The São Januário club took the lead in the first half; Cesinha acrobatically turning home after the ball had come back off the woodwork. Vasco were reduced to ten men after Dedé's horror challenge on Willians, and the Rubro-Negro made the numbers pay, equalising through Renato Abreu's glancing header.
Corinthians were boosted by the return of Bruno César.
After a torrid month, Corinthians finally got back to winning ways, overcoming city rivals Palmeiras at the Pacaembu. New boss Tite had the resources at his disposal to employ a more attacking system than Adílson Batista had been using; the strike duo of Ronaldo and Iarley (O Fenômeno and the Paul Dickov look-alike form quite a heartwarming pairing, incidentally) were supported by Bruno César, Elias, and Jucilei all breaking from midfield. Perhaps even more crucial was the availability of the side's first choice back four for the first time since August 22nd; Chicão recovered from injury to take his place alongside William, Alessandro, and Roberto Carlos. It was talismanic midfielder Bruno César who secured the three points, thumping a shot which cannoned off a defender and past the helpless Deola. The Timão, despite their recent troubles, find themselves just one point off the pace at the head of Série A.
Ahead of Corinthians are Cruzeiro and Fluminense; the latter returned to the top of the Brasileirão with a 2-2 draw against Atlético Paranaense at the Arena da Baixada. Washington headed into his own net to give the Furacão the lead, but Marquinho levelled with an exceptional volley. Wagner Diniz netted from a tight angle to put the home side ahead once more, only for Darío Conca to earn Muricy Ramalho's men a point with a late penalty.
A typically raucous crowd inside Grêmio's Estádio Olímpico were treated to an exciting Gre-Nal clash on Sunday. In a tight first half, it was the Tricolor who struck first; Douglas' tempting free-kick was flicked home by André Lima. Inter drew level after Grêmio midfielder Fábio Rochemback indulged in some goalkeeping practice whilst guarding the near post. The ex-Middlesbrough player was rightly sent off, and Alecsandro coolly stroked home the resulting penalty kick. The hosts regained the lead with a wonderful goal. Douglas found André Lima, who picked out Fábio Santos with a smart first-time ball. The Grêmio left-back powered into the box before rifling past Renan. Golaço! It seemed that derby #383 between these two was going to end with a Grêmio win, but a moment of magic from Andrés D' Alessandro ensured that the spoils were shared. The Argentine created half a yard of space outside the area before arrowing a drive into the bottom corner.
Santos fans were in celebratory mood on Sunday, due to the 70th birthday of Pelé, the club's biggest idol. The Peixe faced Grêmio Prudente, who initially appeared content to play the role of whipping boys in the Vila Belmiro carnival; Keirrison headed home his first goal for Santos, before defender Durval blasted home a second. The Abelha, however, would go about ruining the party after the interval; Wesley bagged a quickfire brace, before Gilmar polished off a glorious breakaway team effort. Santos hardly knew what had hit them; the crowd's patter had switched from "Rei!" to "eh?!" in just fifteen minutes. With just seven games left, this lapse could come back to haunt the seasiders.
Results; Botafogo 1-0 Vitória, Guarani 0-1 Atlético-GO, Corinthians 1-0 Palmeiras, Goiás 1-0 Avaí, Ceará 2-0 São Paulo, Atlético-PR 2-2 Fluminense, Cruzeiro 3-4 Atlético-MG, Santos 2-3 Grêmio Prudente, Grêmio 2-2 Internacional, Vasco 1-1 Flamengo.
(Photo credits; (1) Celio Messias, (2) Eduardo Viana, (3) Ricardo Rimoli.)