The home straight of the Campeonato Brasileiro season is crawling into view, and confidence will be growing among fans of Vasco da Gama. Their side pulled away at the summit of the league this weekend, with São Paulo only managing a draw against Botafogo. Elsewhere, Flamengo finally returned to winning ways, and Figueirense put an end to Santos' excellent run of form.
Brasileirão Gameweek 26 Round-up
"That's it," claimed one Brazilian journalist on Twitter, "we have our player of the year." He was referring, of course, to Diego Souza. The Vasco attacking midfielder continued his majestic recent form with a hat-trick on Sunday, as his side cruised to a routine victory over Cruzeiro. His third, which involved a chapéu (literally a "hat" - when the attacker lifts the ball over the head of an unsuspecting opponent before bringing it back under control) past the blameless Fábio, was particularly memorable, and provoked an outpouring of appreciation among the Brazilian football community. The 26-year-old will hope that his club performances will be enough to earn him a starting spot for the seleção against Argentina on Wednesday evening.
São Paulo, who went into the weekend level on points with Vasco, could only manage a drew with Botafogo. At half time, they would have bitten your hand off if you'd offered them that much; O Glorioso dominated the opening period and established a two-goal lead thanks to a brace from the increasingly influential 'Loco' Abreu. Adílson Batista's team talk at the interval must have been a good one, however, as São Paulo clawed their way back to rescue a point; Henrique reduced the arrears with an opportunist strike, before Rivaldo restored parity in the dying minutes. That result allowed Corinthians - who snuck a win against Bahia - to climb into second position.
After ten games without a win, Flamengo finally managed to secure maximum points, coming from behind to beat América-MG. Deivid and Thiago Neves were the heroes for the Rubro-Negro, but an honourable mention also goes to Júnior César. The Fla man employed novel means to distract opposition striker Kempes in the lead up to a first half penalty kick, repeatedly pulling down the latter's socks as he waited at the edge of the area. (It didn't work, as fate would have it, but full marks for trying.) That win saw Flamengo draw level on points with bitter rivals Fluminense, who drew away to Atlético Paranaense.
In-form Santos would have been confident of maintaining their impressive recent run on Saturday, but came unstuck at home to Figueirense. Talented attacking duo Júlio César and Wellington Nem again made the difference for the Florianópolis side, bagging three goals between them. Ceará, who have enjoyed a rotten September, picked up three much-needed points; the Vozão battled to a 3-2 win over Coritiba. Below them, Atlético-MG and Avaí remain entrenched in the relegation dogfight after 2-1 losses to Internacional and Grêmio respectively. Draw specialists Palmeiras, meanwhile, met Atlético-GO and... drew.
Série A results; Atlético-PR 1-1 Fluminense, Santos 2-3 Figueirense, Flamengo 2-1 América-MG, Corinthians 1-0 Bahia, Botafogo 2-2 São Paulo, Internacional 2-1 Atlético-MG, Cruzeiro 0-3 Vasco, Avaí 1-2 Grêmio, Atlético-GO 1-1 Palmeiras, Ceará 3-2 Coritiba.
(Photo credits; (1) Ramon Bitencourt, (2) Paulo Sergio.)