Grêmio got their Copa Libertadores campaign back on track last night with a 3-0 mauling of Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro. Here are three things that stuck out...
Grêmio win the midfield battle
Flu's usual attacking strategy is a relatively predictable one – although no less effective for that. After Wellington Nem stretches the play, full-backs Carlinhos and Bruno bomb on and dig out crosses until Fred tucks one away. Grêmio countered that tactic brilliantly at the Engenhão, using Elano and Zé Roberto almost as conventional wide midfielders to provide extra cover on the flanks. As a result, Flu's regular supply line was cut off, forcing them infield, where Jean, Edinho and Wágner (and then Deco) were dominated by Grêmio's two deep-lying midfielders. Souza and Fernando were excellent, with the latter staking his claim for a starting berth with some conviction after being left out against Huachipato.
Barcos and Vargas begin to click
New boys Hernán Barcos and Eduardo Vargas failed to click in Grêmio's Libertadores opener, but there were signs last night that this could prove a potent partnership. Barcos, who is far more accomplished technically than some give him credit for, was busy throughout, dropping deep to hold up possession and bring midfielders into play. Vargas, meanwhile, used his electric pace to drag defenders wide, and was rewarded for his efforts with a well-taken goal in the second period. With Welliton still to come into the side, the Porto Alegre side won't be short on firepower this year.
Dead balls: dead important
Grêmio's delivery from corners and free-kicks was exceptional throughout, with Zé Roberto and Elano using all of their experience to trouble the Fluminense defence. The latter came close to a gol olímpico just minutes before whipping in a devastating in-swinging cross that Bruno turned into his own net. Flu, by contrast, offered relatively little from dead-ball situations, with Wágner, Rafael Sóbis and Deco routinely seeing their deliveries cleared by the first man. Given that his side normally prides itself on doing the basics so well, Abel Braga will surely be seething.
(Photo credit: Cleber Mendes.)