Three clássicos, 29 goals, and a new leader. All in a round's work for the Campeonato Brasileiro, which edged into its final quarter over the weekend. With Vasco coming unstuck (and how!) against Internacional, it was Corinthians who nipped into pole position with a convincing win over Atlético-GO. Those matches, though, were not nearly as exciting as that which took place at the Engenhão...
Flamengo 3-2 Fluminense
Sometimes, only the most hackneyed of clichés will do. (And far be it for SKP to resist the inevitable.) Sunday's Fla-Flu was a game of two halves. The first was - whisper it - not very good. Fluminense, whose play managed to be both silky and ponderous (adjectives which also apply to Deco, who was recalled to the starting XI for this one), were slightly on top before the interval, against a Rubro-Negro side deprived of four of its best players. Only the positively-not-deadly Deivid and the slightly undead-looking Rafael Moura came within five miles of breaking the deadlock during the opening 45 minutes.
Things changed after the break. Firstly, there were goals. Rafael Sóbis nodded the Tricolor ahead after some heartwarming midfield scrapping from Marquinho, only for Thiago Neves to square things up with a close range finish. Argentine playmaker Manuel Lanzini, who had come on in place of Deco, then restored Flu's lead with a well-timed header.
Things also heated up in the disciplinary department. Souza was dismissed for a full-blooded tackle, whilst the feud between Renato Abreu and Rafael Moura (which involved both a stray elbow from the former and some Frank Rijkaard-style spitting by the latter) continued to simmer. This was clearly not a match for the faint-hearted.
It was, however, a game for chickens. Or rather, for The Chicken. With just five minutes left on the clock, and his side seemingly heading for defeat, Darío 'El Pollo' Bottinelli wrote his name into Flamengo folklore with a stunning equaliser. Firstly, he must be credited for breaking Renato Abreu's self-initiated free-kick hegemony; not an easy task in itself. The goal itself, though, was truly special, curled from fully 25 yards into the top corner.
Bottinelli wasn't finished there, though. Injury time loomed as he picked the ball up in a similar position, dropped a shoulder to fool an onrushing defender, and steadied himself for a shot. The diminutive midfielder threw everything into the effort, which arrowed unerringly into the bottom corner of Diego Cavalieri's net. The Engenhão (well, half of it) exploded into lunatic celebration; Fla had consolidated their local bragging rights for the foreseeable future.
Brasileirão Gameweek 28 Round-up
Not many games will top that one, but Cruzeiro and São Paulo certainly gave it a try back on Wednesday night; the Raposa twice came from behind to rescue a 3-3 draw at the Arena do Jacaré (literally 'Alligator Arena'). Predictably in a game of so many goals, it was the strikers who hogged the headlines; Keirrison opened his account for Cruzeiro, Dagoberto scored another lovely goal for São Paulo, and Luís Fabiano contrived to miss a penalty. It was all very different to the week's other game in Sete Lagoas, which pitted Atlético-MG against local rivals América. That one, which was attended by only 752 paying spectators (seriously), finished goalless.
Vasco da Gama relinquished their grip at the top of the table, succumbing to Internacional at the Beira-Rio. With Dedé away on Brazil duty, Vasco's defence was torn to shreds by the Colorado, who racked up three second half goals. That result allowed Corinthians - who saw off Atlético-GO thanks to goals from Leandro Castán, Willian and Alex - to return to the top of the table after a month-long absence. Adriano - who, of course, has had to endure a significantly longer lay-off - made a 12-minute cameo performance for the Timão in that game. It would be imprudent to rush to conclusions based on such a short début, but O Imperador looks a good few kilos away from full fitness just yet.
Botafogo's title challenge appears to be fading slightly; they have now gone three games without a win after Saturday's draw at home to Bahia. Morale remains high, however, at least if goal celebrations are anything to go by - Caio's strike at the São Januário was followed by an amusing (if slightly disturbing) choreographed dance routine. Bahia remain in 14th place in the standings, just ahead of Ceará, who drew with Figueirense. Elsewhere, there were wins for Coritiba, Avaí and Santos.
Série A results: Cruzeiro 3-3 São Paulo, Botafogo 2-2 Bahia, Coritiba 2-0 Grêmio, América-MG 0-0 Atlético-MG, Santos 1-0 Palmeiras, Flamengo 3-2 Fluminense, Internacional 3-0 Vasco, Corinthians 3-0 Atlético-GO, Avaí 3-0 Atlético-PR, Ceará 1-1 Figueirense.
(Photo credits; (1) Cleber Mendes, (2) Ari Ferreira.)