Monday, 6 June 2011

Petković Bids Farewell; Inter and Santos Pick Up First Wins

Yes, the seleção were in action on Saturday, but that didn't force a pause in the relentless Brazilian footballing calendar; nine Série A games took place over the weekend. Internacional and Santos both picked up their first wins of the campaign, whilst Palmeiras moved joint top with victory over Atlético-PR. At the Engenhão, meanwhile, Flamengo fans said their goodbyes to a modern icon...

Flamengo 1-1 Corinthians
Think of a Serbian footballer. Any one you like. Got one? OK, now read on. Maybe you went for a current star like Nemanja Vidić, Dejan Stanković, or Branislav Ivanović. Maybe you're a bit older (and/or cooler), and opted for Seniša Mihajlović, Dragan Stojković, or Vladimir Jugović. Maybe you went for someone I've never heard of. Fine. If you're Brazilian, however, one name almost certainly sprang to mind; that of Dejan Petković.

A player who shot to prominence in the early 90s with Red Star Belgrade, Petković (often shortened to 'Pet' in Brazil) has enjoyed a topsy-turvy career. After brief spells at Real Madrid, Sevilla, and Racing Santander, the midfielder crossed the Atlantic to sign for Vitória in 1997. Since then, and despite further sojourns in China and Saudi Arabia, Pet has become a fixture in Brazilian football; appearing for seven different sides in his adopted nation. One of those clubs, however, will remember him with particular warmth.

Pet salutes the Flamengo fans for the final time.

Pet commenced his first spell at Flamengo at the turn of the millennium, after failing to impress at Italian side Venezia. The Serbian's all-action style quickly won him a place in the hearts of most Flamenguistas, and helped Fla to the 2000 Campeonato Carioca. Any remaining doubters were silenced one year later, in one of the stand-out moments of Petković's career. Flamengo and Vasco were tied at 3-3 in the dying minutes of the Rio state championship final, when the Rubro-Negro were awarded a free-kick thirty yards from goal. The gringo stepped up, curling an impeccable effort just beyond the reach of the despairing Helton. Flamengo had won the tricampeonato (three successive titles); Petković was the hero.

Returning to the club in 2009, Pet showed himself to be effective even in the twilight of his career; his dynamism and dead-ball prowess were vital as Fla claimed their first national league title for 17 years. That campaign proved to be a swansong; Petković was used sparingly last season, prompting his decision to retire midway through the current year. On Sunday, the 38-year-old bowed out in dignified fashion; he started his final game for the Rio giants against bitter rivals Corinthians.

Goodbye, Brazilian style; supporters at the Engenhão pay tribute to Petković.

The fans at the Engenhão did the veteran proud, unveiling an enormous mosaico and waving countless banners in tribute to their idol. The game itself started at a rollicking pace, and Corinthians took an early lead; in-form striker Willian applied the finishing touch after a nice run by Weldinho. Flamengo gradually grew into the game, and snatched an equaliser just before the interval; a thirty yard free-kick was smashed home by... Renato Abreu. Someone sack the scriptwriters.

As planned, Petković was replaced at half time; Vanderlei Luxemburgo brought on Negueba, a man of (literally) half the Serbian's age. The chances, however, dried up somewhat; Ronaldinho drilled a shot against the post in the best attacking action of the half. The full time whistle went, leaving Pet to bid an emotional farewell to the Flamengo fans. He will be fondly remembered by most football fans in Brazil.

Brasileirão Gameweek 3 Round-up
Both Santos and Internacional secured maximum points for the first time this season, beating Avaí and América Mineiro respectively. Débutant Borges was on target twice for Santos, whilst young midfielder Oscar plundered a brace for Inter. Newly-promoted Figueirense continued their impressive start to the season, beating Atlético-GO 2-0 at the Orlando Scarpelli.

In a fateful piece of scheduling, Coritiba hosted Vasco in a match sandwiched between the two legs of their Copa do Brasil final. With both clubs fielding reserve teams,
it was the Coxa who came out on top, picking up a convincing 5-1 win. Anderson Aquino was the star of the show, bagging a first half hat trick. Coritiba's local rivals Atlético Paranaense, meanwhile, fell to a third successive defeat; a Chico header gave Palmeiras all three points at the Canindé.

Chico time; the Palmeiras man celebrates his goal against Atlético-PR.

Rafael Moura struck twice for Fluminense, as they battled to victory over Cruzeiro on Saturday night. That result leaves the Raposa (my tip for the title) in the bottom four after the opening three rounds. Thank goodness I'm not a betting man. Elsewhere, Botafogo claimed a useful draw away to Ceará, and Grêmio beat Bahia. The tenth match of the round takes place on Wednesday night, when Atlético Mineiro host São Paulo.

Série A results; Palmeiras 1-0 Atlético-PR, Fluminense 2-1 Cruzeiro, Ceará 2-2 Botafogo, Figueirense 2-0 Atlético-GO, Flamengo 1-1 Corinthians, Grêmio 2-0 Bahia, Coritiba 5-1 Vasco, Santos 3-1 Avaí, América-MG 2-4 Internacional.

(Photo credits; (1) André Durão, (2) Paulo Sérgio, (3) Ari Ferreira.)

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