The Série A season took another twist this weekend, only the latest of hundreds over the past 36 rounds. Corinthians were held by Vitória, allowing Muricy Ramalho's Fluminense to regain top spot with a win over São Paulo. Cruzeiro sealed their Libertadores place with a comfortable victory over Vasco, while Grêmio snuck into fourth. At the other end, there were vital wins for Avaí, Atlético-MG, and Flamengo.
São Paulo 1-4 Fluminense
The lead-up to Sunday's game at the Arena Bareuri had seen a group of ardent São Paulo fans call for their team to lose this match, allowing Fluminense to overtake their bitter rivals Corinthians at the head of the Brasileirão. In truth, the campaign way made with tongue firmly in cheek, but one may have wondered, at full time, whether a few of the home players hadn't missed a midweek memo; the Tricolor Paulista rolled over like a playful kitten in the second half, allowing their sub-par opponents to take the spoils.
Flu were boosted by the fitness of Fred and Deco, who added some much-needed attacking weight to the side alongside Darío Conca and Washington. For São Paulo, young forward Lucas Gaúcho earnt a start after scoring against Vasco, replacing Dagoberto. The visitors dominated possession in the opening period, but once again lacked a cutting edge; Washington was guilty of a handful of misses, and Fred struggled to get into the game. When Fluminense did finally break the deadlock, they had a defender to thank; Gum rose highest to nod home Conca's corner.
Hero, though, turned villain early in the second half; Gum diverted Jean's cross past Ricardo Berna for the equaliser. What followed was a period of real frustration for Flu; they continued to boss play in midfield, yet looked utterly toothless in attack. Luckily for them, a couple of São Paulo players were in a generous mood; both Xandão and Richarlyson were dismissed within a ten-minute period (the first for hauling down Fred, the latter for being a whining, swearing child). With a two-man advantage, Fluminense suddenly had the space they needed, and Darío Conca (who else?!) took the game by the scruff of the neck. The Argentine neatly volleyed home his side's second, before later adding a powerful fourth. Those strikes sandwiched a goal by Fred, who finally benefitted from the kind of inexplicable fumble that Rogério Ceni had been making all game. An odd match, and hardly a Fluminense performance that warranted a 4-1 scoreline. Muricy Ramalho's men, nonetheless, are now in pole position for the title.
Gameweek 36 Round-up
Whilst Fluminense were huffing and puffing to blow down São Paulo's straw house, Corinthians were having more significant troubles. The Timão went ahead against Vitória thanks to Danilo, who ran onto Ronaldo's clever pass before bundling past the 'keeper, but things quickly fell apart for Tite's side. Ronaldo limped off with what looked like a hamstring pull, and a penalty from Leão goalkeeper Viáfara ensured that the points were shared. Corinthians now need Fluminense to slip up in the final games.
Grêmio look the best bet to seal fourth spot (and the Libertadores spot it brings), after a convincing win over Atlético Paranaense. Neuton put the Porto Alegre side ahead with a nice individual effort, but then cost his side a penalty, which Paulo Baier duly smashed home for the Furacão. Grêmio, though, were not to be denied, and earnt a penalty of their own when Edílson was felled by Rhodolfo. Douglas coolly stroked it home, before Diego added a third late on. Botafogo, meanwhile, slipped down to sixth with a 2-1 loss to Internacional. Andrezinho volleyed home to give Inter the lead, and Rafael Sobis flicked home a second. Antônio Carlos' emphatic finish would prove to be little more than a consolation for Joel Santana's men.
In front of a measly 842 fans at the Prudentão, Grêmio Prudente and Ceará battled to a 1-1 draw. Rhayner powered home the opener for the Abelha, before Geraldo levelled with a late penalty. Flamengo scraped a much-needed win over Guarani, a win that should ensure their safety. Renato Abreu's marvellous free-kick set the Rubro-Negro on their way, only for Baiano equalise directly from a corner (that's the third gol olímpico in as many weeks, incidentally; a fact that probably says more about Brazilian goalkeepers than it does about corner takers). Flamengo's Drogbinha da Gávea, Diego Maurício, came up trumps, though; drilling home after Diogo's pass. Breathing space for Vanderlei Luxemburgo's men.
Luxemburgo's previous employers, too, look increasingly likely to avoid the drop; Atlético Mineiro saw off Palmeiras 2-0 at the nicely-named Fonte Luminosa ('Luminous Source') stadium. A deflected Diego Souza free-kick opened the scoring, and Neto Berola smashed home late on to seal the victory. Avaí also did their survival hopes the world of good, seeing off Atlético Goianiense by three goals to nil. Eltinho's free-kick snuck in to put the Leão da Ilha ahead, before a late brace from Jéferson put the result beyond doubt.
Cruzeiro got back to winning ways at the Arena do Jacaré, overcoming Vasco on Sunday night. The Raposa netted three remarkably similar goals in a twenty minute spell; Roger, Henrique, and Edcarlos on each occassion struck following Walter Montillo corners from the right. Renato Augusto reduced the arrears with a final-minute rocket. Santos, meanwhile, confimed Goiás' relegation with a 4-1 win over the Esmeraldino. Goiás actually went ahead via Ernando's towering header, but Danilo swiftly equalised with a low strike. The rest of the game was lit up by a Neymar hattrick; the first of which arrived from the spot after the young striker had himself been tripped. Neymar then expertly tucked home his second despite significant pressure, before adding a third with a delightful chip.
Results; Grêmio 3-1 Atlético-PR, Grêmio Prudente 1-1 Ceará, Flamengo 2-1 Guarani, São Paulo 1-4 Fluminense, Vitória 1-1 Corinthians, Palmeiras 0-2 Atlético-MG, Botafogo 1-2 Internacional, Cruzeiro 3-1 Vasco, Avaí 3-0 Atlético-GO, Goiás 1-4 Santos.
(Photo credits; (1) Gustavo Tilio, (2) Ricardo Rimoli, (3) Carlos Costa.)