Monday, 23 August 2010

Corinthians Rout São Paulo in Clássico Paulista; Vasco Hold Fluminense

The Brasileirão, despite not yet reaching its halfway point, looks to be developing into a two horse race. Corinthians and Fluminense continue ahead of the chasing pack, despite the latter's draw to Vasco on Sunday. Elsewhere, Inter, Avaí, and Palmeiras suffered slumps following their midweek success in continental competition.

Corinthians 3-0 São Paulo

Those expecting a competitive derby at the Pacaembu were left bitterly disappointed, as Corinthians stormed to a convincing victory over city rivals São Paulo. Former coach Mano Menezes, in attendance in Sunday, will have been impressed with the performance of a number of players; in particular midfielders Elias, Bruno César, and Jucilei, all of whom are surely in his plans for the seleção.

Timão hero Elias celebrates his opening goal.

It was Elias that put the Timão ahead after 21 minutes, advancing from deep to fire a low drive into the corner of Rogério Ceni's goal. Up to that point, São Paulo had played reasonably well, and could even have taken the lead; Ricardo Oliveira, however, drilled wide when a cut-back to Fernandão looked the best option. The Tricolor tried to re-establish themselves in the game, and again went close from a Rogério free-kick, but would receive a knockout blow on the stroke of half time. Cléber Santana gifted possession to Bruno César, who slid a subtle pass for the onrushing Jorge Henrique. The winger's low cross picked out Elias, who smashed home from close range at the far post.

The second half saw chances aplenty for both sides. Youngster Marcelinho went close for the visitors with a rocket from distance, while Bruno César saw his spectacular volley draw a diving save from Rogério at the other end. From the resulting corner, Corinthians bagged their third, putting an end to São Paulo's resistance. Jorge Henrique's wicked cross was met by an unmarked Jucilei, whose header nestled in the corner of the net. The result sees Corinthians creep closer to Fluminense at the top of the table, after the Rio side could only draw against Vasco...

Vasco da Gama 2-2 Fluminense
In front of 80,000 fans at the Maracanã, Vasco held their in-form rivals to a draw in a hard-fought clássico Carioca. Flu had reason to be optimistic before kick-off; they were playing on their home turf despite technically being the away side (for local derbies, Vasco use the Maracanã instead of the cosy São Januário), and they had the quality of Deco available for the first time since signing him earlier in the month. The Portuguese playmaker, though, would start on the bench, as Muricy Ramalho kept faith with the players who have taken Flu to the top of Série A.

Things looked to be going as scripted, then, when the Tricolor took an early lead. Following a Darío Conca corner, centre-back Gum turned home from close range after seeing his initial header saved by Fernando Prass. The Vasco 'keeper, in superb form of late, would have to be at his best to deny Conca with a flying save just minutes later. It was an impressive start to the game from Flu, Vasco only remained in the game by the skins of their teeth.

Welcome to horrific Brazilian pitches, Deco.

Gradually, however, the Gigante da Colina began to awaken from its slumber. Vasco's attacking quartet of Felipe, Carlos Alberto, Zé Roberto, and Éder Luís, starting together for the first time, caused their opponents some problems with their skill and fluidity. Carlos Alberto, the club captain, ought to have scored the equaliser, but sliced wide with the goal at his mercy. The dreadlocked midfielder, though, would quickly atone for his error, threading a glorious through-ball into the path of Éder Luís, who coolly finished past Fluminense goalkeeper Fernando Henrique.

Carlos Alberto would go on to repeat the trick early in the second period, surging forward and picking out Fágner with a perfectly-weighted pass. The right wing-back kept his cool, directing a low finish into the far corner of the net to put Vasco ahead. It was a stunning comeback from Vasco, but all their good work would be undone with ten seconds of madness. Felipe, usually such a wily customer, attempted a ludicrous dribble in his own area, and was promptly dispossessed by Emerson, who scuffed a cross towards the penalty spot. Vasco had another chance to clear, but Zé Roberto's heavy touch allowed Júlio César to nip in and gleefully slot home. The game would finish 2-2, despite late chances for Carlos Alberto and Deco. The former drilled wide after a powerful run, and the former Barcelona man wasted his chance to gain instant legend status among the Flu fans, ballooning his shot high over the bar with just Fernando Prass to beat.

Gameweek 15 Round-up
Botafogo's good form continued on Saturday, when they beat visiting Avaí 1-0 at the Engenhão. In a tight game, centre-back Fábio Ferreira's first half header proved the difference between the two sides. Grêmio Prudente gained a valuable win on the road, beating Goiás 2-1 in front of a pathetic crowd of 1,493 at the Serra Dourada. Wanderley put the Abelha ahead with a nice individual effort, before Éverton Santos smashed home to level. Anderson Luís got the winner, volleying home from close range after some shoddy work by Goiás goalkeeper Harley. The home side should have equalised in the final moments, but Romerito's penalty was saved by Giovanni.

Goiás are joined in the bottom four by Grêmio, who were beaten 2-1 by Ceará. The Tricolor Gaúcho looked good for a point when Anderson's own goal cancelled out Ceará's opener (also an own goal, by Willian Magrão), but veteran Geraldo's late volley guaranteed all three points for the Vovô. Grêmio will have had plenty to think about on their 4000km return journey to Porto Alegre. Their local rivals Internacional suffered an entirely predictable comedown after their midweek Libertadores triumph, drawing 1-1 at home to lowly Atlético-GO. Victor Ferraz put the visitors ahead when his long-range effort decieved Renan, but Inter equalised through Leandro Damião, one of Wednesday night's heroes.

Staying put; Neymar demonstrates his feelings for Santos.

Cruzeiro and Flamengo, two teams with top four aspirations, both fell to disappointing 1-0 losses on Sunday. The former went down at home to Vitória; Júnior's strike from distance enough to seal a fifth win of the season for the Salvador club. Atlético Paranaense defeated a toothless Flamengo at the Arena da Baixada, claiming all three points thanks to Manoel's late header. The inclusion of new signings Deivid and Diogo can't come soon enough for the Rubro-Negro on this evidence; the strike partnership of Val Baiano and Leandro Amaral was utterly lacking in cutting edge.

Palmeiras, despite the return of magical Chilean playmaker Jorge Valdivia, who entered as a second-half substitute, toiled to a goalless draw against Guarani in Campinas. Santos shook off the disappointment of their Copa Sul-Americana elimination in midweek to stroll to a 2-0 win over Atlético Mineiro at the Vila Belmiro. The Peixe were awarded a penalty when Zezinho's cross cannoned off the arm of Werley, and Neymar coolly stroked home the spot kick. The 18 year-old phenomenon, fresh from announcing his decision to resist the overtures of Chelsea to remain with Santos, then turned provider. The forward skipped away from a weak challenge, before releasing Danilo, whose shot trickled in despite a touch from Galo 'keeper Aranha.

(Photo credits; (1) Miguel Schinchariol, (2) Gilvan de Souza, (3) Ivan Storti.)

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