Friday, 11 February 2011

Plucky Botafogo Hand Fluminense First Defeat; Ronaldinho Off the Mark for Flamengo

It was another exciting week of state championship action in Brazil, with derby games taking place in both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Fluminense suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of Joel Santana's Botafogo side, whilst Corinthians battled to victory over bitter rivals Palmeiras. In Peru, meanwhile, Brazil U20s look set to seal qualification for the 2012 Olympics despite a loss to their Argentine counterparts. The Libertadores group stage also got underway, with Fluminense hosting Argentinos Juniors at the Engenhão. Without further ado, then...

Campeonato Carioca Round-up
Both Fluminense and Botafogo have hit the ground running in Group B of the Rio state championship, and came into Sunday's clássico having racked up 11 wins and 32 goals between them in the opening six rounds. Something, it was clear, had to give, and so it did; any semblance of defensive solidity. Rafael Moura, paired up front with Fred for the first time, bagged a first half brace for the Tricolor, but goals from Renato Cajá, Loco Abreu (who showed remarkable bravery/pigheadedness to convert a second penalty with his cavadinha technique after seeing his first saved by Diego Cavalieri), and Herrera gave Fogão the points.

É louco mesmo! Abreu celebrates his cheeky penalty after seeing his first saved.

Ronaldinho netted his first goal for Flamengo, coolly converting a penalty in the Rubro-Negro's 3-2 win over Boavista. Predictably, all of the post-match media attention focused on R10 (and his ecstatic celebrations), but the real hero was largely unknown youngster Negueba, who scored the winner in the dying minutes. An article on Globo Esporte later in the week showed Negueba walking unrecognised down Copacabana beach, despite having scored for Brazil's best-supported side. Enjoy the peace whilst you can, kid. At the São Januário, meanwhile, Ricardo Gomes took charge of his first game for Vasco, leading them to a 3-0 win over Americano.

Campeonato Paulista Round-up
Corinthians had a hard old time last week; going out of the Copa Libertadores and having their training complex daubed with abusive graffiti. What better way to get your fans back on side, though, than a victory over one's bitter rivals; a strike from rightback Alessandro handed the Timão a hard-fought win over early pace setters Palmeiras on Sunday. They followed that result up in midweek with a convincing 4-0 win over Ituano, a game in which débutant Liédson, netted a brace of instinctive efforts. There was only one problem for the Corinthians hierarchy; hardly anyone cared. Only around 6,500 fans made their way to the Pacaembu for each of those matches, indicating that the players and management will be in the doghouse for a while yet. Further bad news came on Thursday, when Roberto Carlos revealed that he could leave the club in the wake of a series of violent threats. One last payday on foreign soil beckons.

Força, Levezinho! Liédson celebrates his first goals for Corinthians.

Santos slumped to their second draw on the trot, needing a late goal from former Manchester United (reserves) midfielder Rodrigo Possebon to rescue a point against Santo André. São Paulo were also disappointed, going down to Botafogo-SP at the Ribeirão Preto. The Tricolor will hope that their soon-to-return Brazil U20 players (Lucas, Casemiro, Willian José) will inject some much-needed energy into their performances.

Copa Libertadores Round-up
Fluminense hosted Argentinos Juniors in the first match of the 2011 Libertadores, and twice came from behind to rescue a point. With Fred suspended, it was Rafael Moura (who showed his prowess at continental level by top-scoring in last year's Copa Sul-Americana) who led the line for Flu, and scored both of the home side's goals; the first a brilliantly conceived header, the second a simple nod-in. There was also a headed brace for Argentinos forward Franco Niell, who (as the Brazilian media revelled in revealing), at a diminutive 1m62, is almost 30cm shorter than Moura. Gulliver 2-2 Lilliputians.

South American Youth Championship
The week started on a sour note for the U20 seleção, who lost 2-1 to Argentina. An early (but rather debatable) red card for Juan made life tough for Brazil, especially as the resulting penalty was converted by Rogelio Funes Mori. Willian José's powerful strike got Ney Franco's men back on level terms, but a wondergoal from Juan Iturbe gave Argentina the points. The seleção recovered well, however, with a tight 1-0 win over Ecuador. Casemiro, who has enjoyed a fine tournament, bagged the winner, a goal that all but ensures Brazil's qualification for the 2012 Olympic tournament.

Best of the Rest
Internacional suffered their third Gauchão defeat of the year, losing to Veranópolis despite fielding a full strength XI. There were no such problems for neighbours Grêmio, who overcame Caxias thanks to goals from Douglas and Vílson. Both of the big guns on the Campeonato Mineiro picked up wins; Atlético-MG beat Tupi (with braces from Magno Alves and Neto Berola), and an André Dias effort handed Cruzeiro victory over Villa Nova.

Selected results. Carioca; Fluminense 2-3 Botafogo, Vasco 3-0 Americano, Boavista 2-3 Flamengo. Paulista; Palmeiras 0-1 Corinthians, Santo André 1-1 Santos, Botafogo-SP 2-1 São Paulo, Corinthians 4-0 Ituano. Libertadores; Fluminense 2-2 Argentinos Juniors. Other; Brazil U20 1-2 Argentina U20, Brazil U20 1-0 Ecuador U20.

(Photo credits; (1) Bruno de Lima, (2) Ari Ferreira.)

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