Vasco da Gama 4-0 Grêmio
It's shaping up to be a vintage season for Vasco da Gama. With the Copa do Brasil title (and a Libertadores spot) already in the bag, the Rio side are set to mount their most serious title challenge in years. With Diego Souza firing on all cylinders and Dedé insurmountable at the back, the Gigante da Colina have made steady progress up the Série A table in recent weeks, and now sit in pole position with fourteen matches to play. Even the stroke suffered by Ricardo Gomes last month appears to have galvanised team spirit at the São Januário; caretaker boss Cristóvão Borges has merely taken up where his more illustrious colleague left off.
Saturday's win over Grêmio had an air of inevitability about it; the Vasco trem bala (bullet train) had been cruising past all comers on home turf. Grêmio, whose form has actually taken a turn for the better of late, turned out to be very forgiving guests, hardly putting up a fight as Vasco notched four goals. Diego Souza and Élton both maintained their impressive form with first half strikes, but the real stars of the show were Fagner (no, that's not a typo) and Éder Luís, who combined time and again down the right flank. Both were rewarded with goals after the interval. It would be foolish to pick a title winner this early in the campaign, but Vasco fans have every reason to be confident heading into the home straight.
Brasileirão Gameweek 24 Round-up
São Paulo supporters also had motive to celebrate this weekend; their side strolled to a 4-0 win over Ceará at the Morumbi. Rivaldo, who - much to the chagrin of the Tricolor faithful - started on the bench, rolled back the years once more with an instinctive volleyed finish in that one. At the Engenhão, Botafogo and Flamengo battled to a 1-1 draw - a result that did neither club much good. That match was notable, though, for some more Brazilian celebration politics; Flamengo players took umbrage at 'Loco' Abreu's apparent send-up of Ronaldinho's parado na esquina routine (see here for details). Gloriously petty, I'm sure you'll agree.
Fluminense's impressive run of form (four wins on the trot heading into the weekend) was brought to an abrupt end by Bahia, a side that many pundits (myself included) are still trying to figure out. Able to pull off impressive results against the big guns, yet oddly toothless against more modest opponents, the Tricolor de Aço are the Brazilian Blackpool. Only without so much patronising media sympathy. Midtable bedfellows Cruzeiro, meanwhile, continued their indifferent form with a goalless draw against local rivals/whipping boys América Mineiro.
History was made at the Serra Dourada, where Atlético Goianiense beat partial namesakes Atlético Mineiro for the first time in their 74 year existence. (Yes, it was actually only the sixth meeting between the two, but only fools let "facts" stand in the way of a good story.) Santos, meanwhile, continued their excellent run of form with a convincing win over rivals Corinthians. In an even game at the Pacaembu, it was the Peixe's ruthless finishing that proved the difference between the two sides; Henrique and Alan Kardec netted with opportunistic efforts, and Borges scored for the millionth* consecutive game. Elsewhere, there were deadlocks aplenty; Figueirense, Palmeiras and Coritiba scraped points against Atlético-PR, Avaí and Internacional respectively.
*A rough estimate. Don't quote me on this.
Série A results; Atlético-GO 1-0 Atlético-MG, Vasco 4-0 Grêmio, São Paulo 4-0 Ceará, Bahia 3-0 Fluminense, Atlético-PR 0-0 Figueirense, Avaí 1-1 Palmeiras, Botafogo 1-1 Flamengo, Corinthians 1-3 Santos, Cruzeiro 0-0 América-MG, Internacional 1-1 Coritiba.
(Photo credits; (1) Gilvan de Souza, (2) Bruno de Lima.)