Friday, 5 November 2010

Corinthians and Botafogo Breathe Life Into Title Hopes

Does anyone actually want to win the Campeonato Brasileiro? Round 35 saw yet more slip-ups from the leaders; neither Fluminense nor Cruzeiro registered maximum points. This came as good news for Corinthians, who returned to second place with their trouncing of Avaí. Botafogo, who picked up another win against Atlético-GO, will also feel that they are still in the running. Things are equally congested at the other end of the table, where seven clubs are jostling for safety.

Corinthians 4-0 Avaí
Just a few weeks ago, it seemed that Corinthians' season had collapsed into ignominy. Despite occupying top spot for a significant portion of the campaign, the Timão went on a seven game winless streak which cost Adílson Batista his job. New coach Tite, however, appears to have steadied the ship; these three points against lowly Avaí took the São Paulo club back to within a point of leaders Fluminense. Tite's job has undoubtedly been made easier by the return to fitness of some of the club's most influential players; Bruno César and Chicão started, and Ronaldo got another ninety minutes under his (slowly slackening) belt.

Avaí, who produced some fervent attacking displays earlier the year, are now visibly gripped by the cold hand of relegation. Their start at the Pacaembu was a cautious one, and they were quickly fell behind to Bruno César's sensational strike. The number ten received the ball fully 35 yards out, created some space for himself, and unleashed a curling effort into the top corner. It was his 13th goal in a thoroughly impressive campaign. Avaí were dealt a further blow before the interval with the dismissal of Robinho; the midfielder received a second yellow for handling the ball.

Elias celebrates his goal for Corinthians.

The hosts would go on to make their numerical advantage count in the second period. Their second goal came from Elias, who coolly volleyed home after some buccaneering build-up play from right-back Alessandro. With the Timão cruising, Tite gave a run-out to Dentinho, another player returning from a spell in the physio room. The young forward replaced Iarley, whose recent wastefulness in front of goal saw him booed off by the home fans. With the game drawing to a close, Corinthians' veterans demonstrated their stamina; Roberto Carlos set up Ronaldo to sweep a finish past Zé Carlos, and O Fenômeno netted his second from the penalty spot.

Corinthians look in good shape, then, going into the final five games. With both Ronaldo and Bruno César fit and firing, and their first choice back four all playing, the Timão have the title in their sights. One slight concern will be over midfield pairing Elias and Jucilei, who must travel to the middle east for Brazil's friendly with Argentina on November 17th. Tite will hope that his squad is strong enough to cope should they be forced to miss game time.

Gameweek 33 Round-up
Fluminense were far from their best against Internacional, but still scrapped to a creditable goalless draw at the Beira-Rio. That result was actually enough to take them above Cruzeiro, who slumped to a home defeat against São Paulo. After a closely-matched first half, the Tricolor took the lead through midfielder Lucas. The youngster surged from deep, exchanged passes with Dagoberto, and kept his cool to beat Fábio in the Cruzeiro goal. The points were sealed in controversial circumstances; Rogério Ceni tucked home a penalty that Ricardo Oliveira had 'earnt' with a reprehensible dive.

Rogério Ceni (in a classy pin-stripe number) lines up a trademark free-kick.

Joel Santana's Botafogo withstood a late Atlético Goianiense comeback to record a third consecutive victory. Caio Canedo headed O Glorioso ahead from Marcelo Mattos' cross, before Jóbson emphatically made it two. When 'Loco' Abreu stroked home a penalty, it looked like Botafogo were home and dry, but Atlético made a game of it with two late strikes. Juninho's effort was deflected past Jefferson, who was beaten again by Robston's rasping strike. The response came far too late for the Dragão, who nonetheless remain above Guarani and Atlético-MG, who snoozed their way to a 0-0 draw at the Brinco de Ouro.

Seasiders Santos continue to delight and frustrate in equal measure, and could only draw 1-1 with Vitória. Neymar finished off a deadly team move to put the Peixe ahead, but some amateurish defending allowed Júnior to level matters. Marcelo Martelotte's men, though, will be consoled with the knowledge that they have already sealed a place in next year's Libertadores. Both Grêmio and Atlético-PR notched victories, allowing them to join Santos (and São Paulo and Internacional for that matter) on 50 points. André Lima put Grêmio into the lead against Goiás with a close-range finish, before Diego ran on to Douglas' subtle pass to complete the 2-0 win. Substitute Nieto's fine volley was enough for Atlético Paranaense to see off Palmeiras at the Arena da Baixada.

Ceará's Geraldo (left) challenges Flamengo forward Diogo.

At the Castelão in Fortaleza, home side Ceará twice came from behind to rescue a point against Flamengo. Despite Vanderlei Luxemburgo's decision to keep faith with the much-publicised '3-D' strike force (comprised of Deivid, Diogo, and Diego Maurício), it would be two centre-backs who grabbed the goals for Fla; Welinton tapped in early on, and Ronaldo Angelim powered home a second half header. Ceará replied on both occassions, however, through Magno Alves. The striker twice pounced on Marcelo Lomba fumbles to ensure that the spoils were shared. That result saw Ceará overtaken by Vasco, who beat Grêmio Prudente 2-1. A lovely solo effort from the delightfully-named Adriano Pimenta (English translation: Adrian Pepper) gave Prudente the advantage, but a brace from Rômulo gave Vasco the win. Both of the midfielder's goals were set up by Felipe, who should now get some respite from recent criticism of his displays.

Results; Goiás 0-2 Grêmio, Santos 1-1 Vitória, Internacional 0-0 Fluminense, Botafogo 3-2 Atlético-GO, Guarani 0-0 Atlético-MG, Corinthians 4-0 Avaí, Cruzeiro 0-2 São Paulo, Ceará 2-2 Flamengo, Vasco 2-1 Grêmio Prudente, Atlético-PR 1-0 Palmeiras.

(Photo credits; (1) Ari Ferreira, (2) Vipcomm, (3) Jarbas Oliveira.)

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