The form book has been well and truly thrown out the window in the Campeonato Brasileiro of late, leaving all to play for with eight rounds remaining. In the congested top half of the table (only ten points separate Cruzeiro in first and Palmeiras in tenth), wins for Grêmio and Atlético-PR allowed them to edge closer to the top five, none of whom could claim three points. It's hard to see Atlético maintaining their challenge in the remaining weeks, but if they continue their run of form, Grêmio could well be in with an outside chance. The battle against relegation is also hotting up; wins for Vitória, Atlético-GO, and Atlético-MG have dragged Guarani into the mire. Only Grêmio Prudente, rooted to the foot of the table, look to have accepted their fate.
São Paulo 4-3 Santos
Paulo César Carpegiani has done wonders at the Morumbi since his arrival, transforming what appeared to be a declining force into a contender for a Libertadores spot. São Paulo faced local rivals Santos on Sunday, a rollocking game which produced no fewer than seven goals. The former Atlético-PR coach continued with the attacking system that has proved so succesful of late, picking the trio of Lucas, Dagoberto, and Fernandinho to support Ricardo Oliveira in attack. Santos, who themselves hardly prioritise defensive solidity, lined up with Zé Éduardo up front, supported by the pacy pair of Neymar and Alan Patrick.
It was the latter who started the game's early goalrush, slotting the Peixe ahead after a Rogério fumble. Four more goals would follow before the midway point of the first half. The diminutive Dagoberto glanced home from Ricardo Oliveira's knockdown to draw São Paulo level, and added a second with a fine looping header. The man they call 'Dagol' looked to have completed a 15 minute hat-trick soon after, but replays showed that Santos right-back Pará got the final touch, turning past his own 'keeper in a last ditch effort to halt the Tricolor man. The home side looked to be running away with the game, but Pará made amends for his defensive lapse, crossing for Zé Éduardo to reduce the arrears. The action inevitably tailed off after this breathless exchange, and São Paulo entered the changing rooms 3-2 to the good.
The Tricolor were dealt a blow early in the second period with the dismissal of Richarlyson, who needlessly lunged into a tackle on Zé Éduardo and duly picked up a second yellow card. Santos equalised thanks to Neymar's cool penalty, but it would be São Paulo who did just enough to secure the win. Ricardo Oliveira's injury time effort was only parried by Rafael, allowing Jean to nod home the winner. A fantastic game, and three valuable points for São Paulo.
Gameweek 30 Round-up
Flamengo continue to impress under the stewardship of Vanderlei Luxemburgo, and romped to an impressive 3-0 win over stuttering Internacional. Ex-Fenerbahçe striker Deivid opened his account for the club with a brace; the first from the penalty spot, the second a smart header from a corner. Midfielder Renato also got his name on the scoresheet with a powerful 30 yard free-kick. Fellow Rio giants Fluminense and Botafogo met in Sunday's clássico carioca, a game that finished goalless. Fluminense were marginally the stronger, but couldn't find the goal which would have returned them to the summit of Série A.
Ronaldo returned to the Corinthians starting XI against Guarani, and was unlucky not to hand the Timão a much-needed win. O Fenômeno had two early goals chalked off by the officials; the first decision in particular looked harsh. As it was, Guarani frustrated Corinthians, and scraped a point with a goalless draw. The Timão are now winless in seven matches, and will be hoping that new coach Tite (whose appointment was announced on Sunday evening) will have a positive effect on the side's fortunes. Palmeiras appeared to have seen off Ceará at the Arena Bareuri, having led for much of the second period. A late penalty from veteran midfielder Geraldo, however, cancelled out Marcos Assunção's first half free-kick.
Atlético Paranaense deepened Goiás' relegation plight, snatching a fortunate 2-1 victory over the Esmeraldino at the Arena da Baixada. Branquinho gave the hosts the advantage with a stunning strike from the edge of the area, and Atlético pulled further ahead in controversial circumstances; Ivan González's header was allowed to stand despite being cleared off the line by Ernando. Goiás pulled one back through target man Rafael Moura, but it would prove no more than a consolation. Grêmio Prudente lost for the 16th occasion this season, going down to Salvador club Vitória. It was goalkeeper Julián Viáfara who scored the first goal of Antônio Lopes' reign with the Leão, tucking home a first half penalty. Júnior completed the scoring late on, tapping home after some patient build-up.
Grêmio threw a spanner in the works of Cruzeiro's title tilt, beating the Raposa 2-1 at the Olímpico. Walter Montillo bulldozed his way into the Grêmio area to put the visitors ahead, but débutant Júnior Viçosa acrobatically equalised. The scene was set for man of the moment Jonas to decide the game, smashing home a penalty after Thiago Humberto went down in the box. On the basis of their recent form, Renato Gaúcho's men should break into the top four before the season ends.
Atlético Goianiense moved out of the relegation zone for the first time in 26 rounds thanks to a victory on Sunday. Second half goals from Anaílson and goalkeeper Márcio were enough for the Dragão against an out-of-sorts Vasco. Atlético Mineiro also picked up a home win, seeing off Avaí at the Arena do Jacaré. Rafael Cruz's low drive put the Galo ahead, before Neto Berola sealed the win with a brilliantly taken breakaway goal.
Results; Flamengo 3-0 Internacional, Atlético-PR 2-1 Goiás, Atlético-GO 2-0 Vasco, Atlético-MG 2-0 Avaí, Grêmio 2-1 Cruzeiro, Guarani 0-0 Corinthians, Fluminense 0-0 Botafogo, Palmeiras 1-1 Ceará, Vitória 2-0 Grêmio Prudente, São Paulo 4-3 Santos.
(Photo credits; (1) Tom Dib, (2) Ari Ferreira, (3) Carlos Costa.)