Monday, 27 September 2010

Inter Late Show Stuns Corinthians; Santos End Cruzeiro Run

There were some strange results in this weekend's Série A games; form teams Cruzeiro and São Paulo both suffered heavy defeats, while recent strugglers Avaí somehow pulled a five-goal win out of the hat. Elsewhere, Fluminense again took pole position after Inter beat Corinthians...

Internacional 3-2 Corinthians
Three straight wins had shot Adílson Batista's Corinthians side to the top of the Série A with a game in hand, but Inter managed to (temporarily at least) derail their title charge in a rip-roaring game at the Beira-Rio. Corinthians were still without a number of first team players, among them Chicão, Ralf, Dentinho, and Ronaldo, while Inter made three changes from the side that went down to Atlético-PR; Renan, Nei, and Sorondo replaced Pato Abbondanzieri, Bolívar, and Wilson Mathías.

In a tense opening period, it was the home side who got their noses in front. Andrés D'Alessandro poked a clever through ball into the path of Tinga, who coolly slotted past Júlio César to open the scoring. Corinthians twice went close to equalising before the interval, but Jorge Henrique and Bruno César were denied by Renan and the crossbar respectively. The start of the second half brought far more chances; some brave 'keeping from Renan denied Iarley, before D'Alessandro tested Júlio César at the other end.

Corinthians' Jorge Henrique competes with Pablo Guiñazú of Inter.

With 65 minutes on the clock, the Timão found an equaliser. Jucilei released Jorge Henrique on the left, and the little forward curled an impeccable shot into the far corner of the net. Within minutes, it ought to have been two, but Bruno César could only find the woodwork again with the goal at his mercy. Instead, it was Inter who netted their second; D'Alessandro, a torment to Corinthians throughout, crossed for substitute Alecsandro to bundle home at the far post.

Things were all set up for an exciting finish, but few could have predicted the events that would unfold. Corinthians defender Paulo André thought he'd scored with a powerful header, only to see his effort brilliantly tipped over by Nei. Unfortunatly for Inter, Nei is an outfield player, and was thus promptly sent off. Bruno César made no mistake from the spot, blasting the ball down the centre. The visitors surely thought they'd rescued a point, but it was not to be. Paulo André gave away a free-kick just outside the box (and received his second yellow for the incident), which Inter dead-ball specialist Andrezinho stepped up to take. His effort flicked off the wall and off the post before settling in the back of the net, sending a packed Beira-Rio into raptures.

Gameweek 25 Round-up
Santos put an abrupt end to Cruzeiro's run of wins, emphatically beating the Belo Horizonte club 4-1 at the Arena Barueri. After a goalless first half, Marcel's scuffed strike put the Peixe ahead, before Edu Dracena headed home a second from Marquinhos' free-kick. Thiago Ribeiro smashed in at the near post to reduce the arrears, but Alex Sandro's wonder goal quickly extinguished any hope of a comeback; the left-back ran from his own half before sensationally lobbing Fábio in the Raposa goal. Que golaço! Neymar added a fine individual goal of his own in injury time, turning his marker inside out before slotting home. In Campinas, Baiano scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot, giving Guarani victory over Vasco.

Atlético Goianiense picked up a great result against fellow strugglers Grêmio Prudente, winning 3-0 at the Serra Dourada. Agenor bundled home the first from a cross, before Thiago Feltri volleyed home a smart second. Marcão completed the scoring, powerfully heading past Giovanni in the Abelha goal. Goiás did their survival hopes the world of good, too, embarrassing the mighty São Paulo at the Morumbi. The Esmeraldino took the lead when Carlos Alberto poked home, before taking control of the game. Rafael Moura added a second after good work by Felipe, and then himself rounded off the scoring, rocketing home from a tight angle.

Goiás players celebrate their third at the Morumbi.

Luiz Felipe Scolari finally seems to be moulding his Palmeiras charges into a decent side; the Verdão beat Flamengo convincingly at the Engenhão on Saturday. A first half Kléber brace (the first a penalty, the second a low drive) put Palmeiras in the driving seat, before Petkovic brought Fla back into contention from the spot. A late Lincoln goal, however, sealed the points for the São Paulo side. Sunday's game at the same stadium (which could host up to 120 games within the next year) saw Atlético Paranaense hold Botafogo to a 1-1 draw. Edno's snapshot put O Glorioso ahead, but a late individual goal by Guerrón ensured the points were shared.

Fluminense went back to the top of the standings, thanks to a tight away win over Vitória. The Tricolor went ahead from the penalty spot (Darío Conca converting after Rodriguinho was felled in the area) before being pegged back when Rafael's fumble allowed Henrique to scramble home. Flu would win it, however, thanks to the same attacking combination; this time Rodriguinho getting on the scoresheet following a smart Conca pass. Dorival Júnior's first game in charge of Atlético Mineiro ended in defeat, as the Galo went down 2-1 to Grêmio. Jonas pounced on a rebound to put the Tricolor Gaúcho into a third minute lead, before Gabriel bustled into the area to clip home a second. Diego Tardelli's header would prove no more than a consolation for Atlético.

Avaí finally brought their horrid run of form to an end, beating Ceará for their first win since the 15th of August. They did so in some style, too, with five unanswered goals at the Ressacada. Rudnei poked the Florianópolis side ahead with their first attack of the game, before Davi converted a penalty to double the advantage. Jéferson then decided to have his own personal goal of the week contest, smashing in two glorious drives, one with each foot. Davi rounded off an impressive performance in the second half with a delicate curling effort.

Results; São Paulo 0-3 Goiás, Atlético-GO 3-0 Grêmio Prudente, Santos 4-1 Cruzeiro, Guarani 1-0 Vasco, Flamengo 1-3 Palmeiras, Botafogo 1-1 Atlético-PR, Vitória 1-2 Fluminense, Internacional 3-2 Corinthians, Avaí 5-0 Ceará, Atlético-MG 1-2 Grêmio.

(Photo credits; (1) Ricardo Rimoli, (2) Miguel Schincaroil.)

Friday, 24 September 2010

Ruthless Corinthians Stay Top With Win Over Santos; Botafogo Stun Vasco

The excitement continues to flow thick and fast in the Campeonato Brasileiro, as the midweek fixtures produced no fewer than 33 goals around the country. Corinthians continue to lead the way after their win over Santos, but Fluminense and Cruzeiro remain hot on their heels; both picked up convincing home wins. At the other end of the table, Grêmio Prudente, Goiás, and Atlético Mineiro remain rooted in the relegation mire.

Santos 2-3 Corinthians
I suspect Corinthians indulged in some schadenfreude during the week, as they watched their forthcoming opponents lurch into controversy following the sacking of Dorival Júnior. There could have been no better moment to face the Peixe; interim coach Marcelo Martelote had just two days to prepare his charges (many of whom, one assumes, must be somewhat bitter about the dismissal of Dorival) for this clash. Neymar, the player at the centre of the debacle at the Vila Belmiro, was duly returned to Santos' starting line-up.

Despite their woes, it was Santos who raced into a second minute lead. Marquinhos' corner found defender Durval, whose sweet half-volleyed finish was one of which any striker would have been proud. The lead would not last long, however, as Corinthians hit back in typically clinical fashion. Midfield dynamo Jucilei danced past a couple of challenges before releasing Iarley on the left side of the area. The veteran made no mistake, guiding a shot past Rafael for his sixth goal in seven games.

The three musketeers; Iarley, Jorge Henrique, and Bruno César.

What occured next had been written in the script from the start of the week; Neymar scored for Santos. The youngster tapped home after Marcel's shot was parried by Júlio César, and proceeded to celebrate in the most saccharine manner; sprinting over to the bench to hug his teammates. Only the most gullible of observers would have bought his "I'm a team-player, me!" schtick. Corinthians, though, were not about to become the fall-guys for the Neymar show, and again hit back before the interval. Bruno César released Elias, whose rasping shot snuck into the far corner via the goalkeeper. The dynamic midfielder would the following day be rewarded for his fine recent form with a call up to the seleção.

The second half couldn't live up to the excitement of the first, and in truth both teams looked slightly worn out by their earlier exploits. Corinthians, though, showed the kind of ruthlessness that wins championships; conjuring up a goal almost from nothing. Jorge Henrique's cross was played back across goal by substitute Danilo, giving centre-back Paulo André the easiest of tasks to head home. One may have expected an onslaught from the Peixe, but it didn't materialise; Léo's disallowed goal was the closest they came to getting back into the game. In truth, the result was an appropriate reminder to the Santos board that short-termism is always a gamble.

Gameweek 24 Round-up
Santos now sit in seventh in Série A, having been overtaken by in-form Atlético Paranaense. The Furacão picked up an impressive win over Internacional, thanks to a trademark free-kick by SKP favourite Paulo Baier. The goal was noteworthy due to some very odd defending by Inter's Tinga; the midfielder sprinted from his position on the post in order to play an Atlético forward offside, only to watch in horror as Baier placed the ball exactly where he'd been standing. Palmeiras made their way into the top half of the table, beating Grêmio Prudente 1-0 at the Prudentão. Márcio Araújo netted the winner for the Verdão.

Palmeiras players celebrate Márcio Araújo's goal.

Ricardo Oliveira scored on his return to the São Paulo starting XI, converting with his knee to hand the Tricolor a 2-1 win over Guarani. Marlos had given São Paulo the lead with a delightful individual effort, but Baiano's penalty had levelled things up. The win is the latest in a good string of results for the Morumbi club, who are rumoured to be considering appointing Dorival Júnior as coach. Cruzeiro claimed their seventh win in nine matches, comfortably overcoming Ceará at the Arena do Jacaré. Walter Montillo maintained his fine goalscoring form the penalty spot, before fellow Argentine Ernesto Fárias poached a late second from close range.

Atlético Goianiense continue to show signs that they could escape the relegation dogfight, beating lowly Goiás 3-1 away from home. Elias' lovely opener for the Dragão was cancelled out by an Amaral header, but further goals from Gilson and Juninho gave Atlético maximum points. That result leaves Avaí teetering precariously above the drop zone, after they were soundly beaten in Salvador by Vitória. Júnior scrambled home Vitória's first after a mazy run by Egídio, before Elkeson smashed home a second from the edge of the area. Thiago Humberto added another late on to seal a first home win since the 14th of August for the Leão.

At the Olímpico, Grêmio were denied victory over Flamengo by a late Dejan Petkovic goal for the Rubro-Negro. Douglas put the home side ahead with a slick run and finish, before Fla equalised; Kléberson flicking home Léo Moura's brilliant cross. Jonas' instinctive finish looked to have won it for the Tricolor, but Petkovic had other ideas. The Serbian ran on to Léo Moura's chipped through-ball, rounded Grêmio 'keeper Victor with his first touch, and slotted into the empty net. It was a delightful, if slightly fortuitous, goal.

Fluminense got their title challenge back on track, trouncing Atlético Mineiro 5-1 at the Engenhão. Leandro Euzébio gave Flu the lead, heading home from Conca's corner, but Atlético pulled level when Daniel Carvalho bent home a stunning free-kick from 25 yards. Carlinhos restored the Tricolor's advantage with a low drive, before fellow defender Gum rose to head home a third. Carlinhos bagged his second with a powerful run and finish, and Marquinho compounded the Galo's misery with an fifth in injury time. More performances like this should ensure that Muricy Ramalho's men push Corinthians (and Cruzeiro) all the way in the battle for the Brasileirão. Atlético, on the other hand, are in real trouble; coach Vanderlei Luxeburgo was (finally) dismissed in the wake of the game.

Vasco's Rafael Carioca (left) battles with Renato Cajá of Botafogo.

Vasco met Botafogo in Tuesday's clássico carioca, a game that produced plenty of drama and four goals. Vasco started the better, and should have led within five minutes, but Rafael Coelho scuffed wide when it looked easier to score. The Gigante da Colina did take the lead just minutes later, though, thanks to left-back Ramon's deflected effort. Botafogo suffered a huge blow when attacking midfielder Maicosuel collapsed with a knee injury; scans after the game revealed that he'll miss the rest of the Série A campaign. When Vasco added a second, then, thanks to a smart finish by Éder Luís, it looked like a day to forget for O Glorioso. Joel Santana's men, however, mounted an improbable second half comeback. A rare error from Vasco goalkeeper Fernando Prass allowed Herrera to head home in the 55th minute, before Titi conceded a stoppage time penalty after handling in the area. 'Loco' Abreu, so often the Alvinegro's saviour, made no mistake, cooly sending Prass the wrong way from the spot.

Results; Grêmio Prudente 0-1 Palmeiras, São Paulo 2-1 Guarani, Goiás 1-3 Atlético-GO, Cruzeiro 2-0 Ceará, Vasco 2-2 Botafogo, Santos 2-3 Corinthians, Grêmio 2-2 Flamengo, Atlético-PR 1-0 Internacional, Vitória 3-0 Avaí, Fluminense 5-1 Atlético-MG.

(Photo credits; (1) Eduardo Viana, (2) Celio Messias, (3) Cleber Mendes.)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Neymar Left Out of Seleção

Santos may have accepted Neymar's recent antics, but seleção boss Mano Menezes today demonstrated he was made of sterner stuff, leaving the youngster out of the squad for upcoming friendlies in Europe. The youngster, excellent on his début against the USA, will have to improve his attitude to work his way back into Menezes' plans. Brazil will play two games, on the 6th and 13th of October, against opponents to be announced in the coming days.

Neymar has been in the headlines this week for all the wrong reasons.

The full squad list is as follows;

Victor (Grêmio)
Jefferson (Botafogo)
Neto (Atlético-PR)

Daniel Alves (Barcelona)
Mariano (Fluminense)
André Santos (Fenerbahçe)
Adriano (Barcelona)
David Luiz (Benfica)
Alex (Chelsea)
Thiago Silva (Milan)
Réver (Atlético-MG)

Lucas (Liverpool)
Ramires (Chelsea)
Sandro (Tottenham Hotspur)
Elias (Corinthians)
Carlos Éduardo (Rubin Kazan)
Philippe Coutinho (Internazionale)
Wesley (Werder Bremen)
Giuliano (Internacional)

Alexandre Pato (Milan)
André (Dinamo Kyiv)
Nilmar (Villareal)
Robinho (Milan)

There are call-ups, then, for Flu right-back Mariano, and Inter midfielder Giuliano, both of whom have been superb for their clubs in recent months. There are surprise inclusions for Neto, Atlético Paranaense's young goalkeeper, and Wesley, the former Santos midfielder who recently joined German side Werder Bremen. Elias has been rewarded by his former Corinthians mentor for his fine Série A form, but his inclusion means that clubmate Jucilei is left out. Somewhat surprisingly, there is also no place for Hernanes, who has enjoyed a strong start in Italy with Lazio. Most of the players who disappointed during the World Cup remain in limbo, as Menezes looks set to continue with his approach of introducing youngsters to international football.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Santos Sack Dorival Júnior

If you're a regular reader, you may have noticed that I tend to distribute the week's news (about injuries, managerial changes, transfers) throughout my twice-weekly round-ups (and of course, on my Twitter feed), rather than publish copious stories here. I feel, however, like making an exception here.

Santos last night sacked coach Dorival Júnior, the coach who guided them to the Campeonato Paulista and Copa do Brasil titles this year. The dismissal comes in the wake of a brief but telling conflict with one of the team's star players; striker Neymar, recently the subject of a failed transfer bid from Chelsea. The youngster aimed a volley of abuse at Dorival in the wake of the victory over Atlético Goianiense last week, an attack thought to have been provoked by the manager's decision to transfer penalty duties from Neymar to fellow forward Marcel. Dorival subsequently left Neymar out of the draw with Guarani, and was planning to extend the punishment to include tonight's derby clash with Corinthians.

The club's director of football, however, revealed that the punishment laid down by Dorival was not endorsed by the club's hierarchy; "this was not Dorival's decision to take," said Pedro Luis Nunes Conceição, "his behaviour changed and left us astonished." The conflict of opinion lead to Santos officials deciding to end the coach's reign at the Vila Belmiro. São Paulo are reportedly interested in appointing the 48 year-old.

The above statement from Conceição doesn't begin to disguise the idiocy of Santos' decision. Dorival, as well as leading the Peixe to two trophies in the past nine months, has been the catalyst of a wave of positivity surrounding the club, who have achieved success with a thoroughly attacking brand of football. Dorival has also, until recent events, been instrumental in the development of the latest batch of Santos youngsters, including Paulo Henrique Ganso, André, Alan Patrick, and Neymar himself.

Dorival Júnior, I would argue, was entirely in the right regarding recent events. A coach ought to have the final say on discliplinary matters within his squad, and there could be little doubt that Neymar was due a reality check. The youngster has, since signing a new deal with the Peixe a few weeks ago, become the subject of some debate in Brazil. In order to resist Chelsea's overtures, Santos handed Neymar an astronomical contract (by Brazilian standards, at least), making him the best paid player at the club by a considerable distance. Since then, the 18 year-old has frequently displayed petulance on the field, although he is admittedly provoked by his opponents' bully tactics. Off the field, despite pleas by his father to the contrary, Neymar's ego (which, in truth, was never insignificant) is reported to have swelled to dangerous levels.

The blame for the fiasco, however, should not be laid solely at the feet of the young striker. The media attention on Neymar has been intense ever since he burst onto the scene a couple of years ago, and can only have inflated the player's sense of self-importance. Atlético Goianiense coach René Simões last week claimed that the country was "creating a monster," and there is a great deal of truth to this; one could argue that Neymar is turning into precisely the kind of character that the Brazilian media craves and nurtures. Santos' decision, in this context, is not only cruel in the short term to Dorival, but may well prove counter-productive in the development of one of Brazil's best prospects. In ripping apart a successful and popular managerial regime just to ensure Neymar plays in the next few games, Santos have demonstrated themselves to be willing to bend at the youngster's every whim. Who wouldn't develop an ego in such a situation? The sacking of Dorival Júnior stands as a sad indictment of the short-sightedness and short-termism of Brazilian football today.

(A version of this article also appears on IBWM.)

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

SKP + The Equaliser

The Equaliser, a marvellous blog on the beautiful game, has kindly published this article of mine in their "My Favourite Footballer" series.

The observant reader will notice that this is my second piece in recent days about São Paulo goalkeeper Rogério Ceni, but fear not, I haven't been overcome by laziness; this one is fairly different from my IBWM post.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Flamengo Hold Fluminense in Scintillating Clássico Carioca; São Paulo Beat Palmeiras

Brazil's two biggest cities both hosted clássicos this weekend, and while Palmeiras' clash with São Paulo proved a rather tepid affair, Rio's Fla-Flu derby was anything but. Elsewhere, Corinthians moved to the head of the table with a win over Grêmio Prudente, and Botafogo drew with Cruzeiro.

Flamengo 3-3 Fluminense
Only 15,000 fans made their way to the Engenhão on Sunday, a disappointing attendance for one of Brazil's most fierce rivalries. Those who did make the trip, though, were treated to a pulsating match, one which both teams will feel they could have won. Muricy Ramalho was faced with some selection issues heading into the tie, with Deco and Fernando Henrique joining Fred and Emerson in the treatment room; Rafael started in goal, with Rodriguinho joining Washington in attack. Flamengo coach Silas, meanwhile, again left Diego Maurício on the bench, preferring to keep faith with the duo of Deivid and Diogo up front.

Who's Deivid? The Flamengo striker volleys home his first for the club.

The match started with Fluminense on the front foot. The Tricolor took the lead in the eighth minute, with a trademark dead-ball routine; Conca's corner was flicked on by Rodriguinho at the near post, which flummoxed the Fla defence, and allowed Leandro Euzébio to ghost unmarked into the six-yard box and head past Marcelo Lomba. It was the centre-back's fourth goal of a productive season. Flamengo, however, came roaring back into contention, going close through Léo Moura's free-kick before finding an equaliser. Again, it was a defensive lapse that provided the catalyst; Flu centre-back Gum dallied on the ball, allowing Kléberson to nip in an dink an intelligent cross to the back post, where Deivid guided home his first goal for the club. Things would get even better for the Rubro-Negro before the break, when David Braz pounced at the far post following a Renato corner. The youngster celebrated in style, blowing kisses to the jubilant home fans.

The game would get even better in the second period; both teams refrained from the usual Brasileirão staples of diving and time-wasting to create an enthralling spectacle. Renato tested Rafael with a stinging drive, and Washington was denied by some last ditch defending at the other end. Fluminense, who looked far more balanced after the introduction of midfielder Marquinho, grabbed an equaliser just before the hour mark; Diogo's clever pass found Rodriguinho, who sold David Braz a sumptuous dummy before curling a shot into the top corner. It appeared at that point that the Tricolor would take control of the match, but a moment of genius meant that they would again have to come from behind. Flamengo won a free-kick 25 yards out, which playmaker Renato, quiet for much of the match, blasted into the roof of the net. Golaço!

In the closing twenty minutes, Flamengo seemed to tire, allowing Fluminense to again draw level. Marquinho's corner created chaos on the Fla box, allowing Rodriguinho to poke home his second of the evening from three yards out. Further chances arrived for both sides; Marquinho's volley dipped just wide for Flu, who had Rafael to thank for his sharp reflex save from Deivid. The match, though, would end a draw; a fair result after a captivating ninety minutes.

Gameweek 23 Round-up
That result, although promising for Flamengo, ironically favoured another of their biggest rivals, Corinthians, who now lead Série A outright after a comfortable 3-0 win over Grêmio Prudente. Elias set up Iarley to put the Timão ahead, before two lovely second half goals sealed the points. Jorge Henrique got on the scoresheet with a controlled first-time shot after good work by Bruno César, and Elias rounded things off, smashing home following a one-two with Paulinho. Next up for Corinthians are Santos, who played out a disappointing goalless draw with Guarani in Campinas. The Peixe were without Neymar, who was left out of the squad following his outburst at coach Dorival Júnior.

Jump for joy; Walter Montillo (left) celebrates his second for Cruzeiro.

Atlético Paranaense picked up a good win on their travels, beating Atlético Goianiense 2-1 at the Serra Dourada. The Furacão raced into a two goal lead, thanks to a Branquinho brace; the first a simple volley after Maikon Leite's shot had rattled the bar, and the second a cultured finish after a quick break. Diogo Galvão pulled one back, drilling past Neto after a delightful ball from Anaílson, but the home side couldn't manage an equaliser. The Dragão sink to 19th, due to Goiás' 1-1 draw with Ceará. Oziel put the latter ahead with the aid of a hilarious fumble by Harlei (who then bizarrely feigned injury), but Wellington Monteiro's stunning long-range strike ensured the points were shared.

Title hopefuls Botafogo and Cruzeiro met at the Engenhão, and battled to an enjoyable 2-2 draw. The oft-maligned Alessandro put the home side ahead with a smart turn and finish, but Walter Montillo's penalty brought the Raposa level. The Argentine, in fine fettle since arriving from Universidad de Chile, then doubled his tally, finding the corner of the net with a powerful effort. Botafogo would snatch a dramatic point, however, thanks to their talisman 'Loco' Abreu, who converted from the penalty spot after Maicosuel was fouled in the area. That result allowed Internacional to join Botafogo on 38 points, after the Porto Alegre side ended Vasco's long unbeaten run at the Beira-Rio. The only goal of the game was scored by Edu, finally handed a start by Celso Roth after months of frustration. The former Celta Vigo striker volleyed emphatically home following good work by Andrés D'Alessandro.

São Paulo overcame Palmeiras at the Pacaembu in Sunday's clássico paulista, thanks largely to a fabulous performance from young forward Lucas. The attacker (who, before this week, had been known as Marcelinho as a tribute to his idol Marcelinho Carioca) put the Tricolor ahead with a deft volley, before turning provider; his perfect chipped pass released Fernandão, who controlled before firing past Palmeiras 'keeper Deola. Avaí continued to drop like a stone down the Brasileirão rankings, as they were soundly beaten at home by Grêmio. Jonas opened the scoring for the Tricolor Gaúcho with a brilliant individual effort, and André Luís headed home their second. Jonas added a third with a deflected shot, a goal which takes him to the top of the league's scoring charts with eleven for the season.

São Paulo's Lucas; the artist formerly known as Marcelinho.

Vitória picked up their first win in eight games, triumphing 3-2 over Atlético Mineiro at the Arena do Jacaré. Vitória goalkeeper Viáfara put his side ahead from the penalty spot after another error from the hapless Fábio Costa, before Egídio, a revelation this season, slid in a second. The Galo worked their way back into the game, thanks to Daniel Carvalho's deflected strike, and a close-range finish from Neto Berola, but a scrappy goal from Henrique condemned them to defeat.

Results; Corinthians 3-0 Grêmio Prudente, Atlético-GO 1-2 Atlético-PR, Botafogo 2-2 Cruzeiro, Atlético-MG 2-3 Vitória, Palmeiras 0-2 São Paulo, Internacional 1-0 Vasco, Guarani 0-0 Santos, Flamengo 3-3 Fluminense, Avaí 0-3 Grêmio, Ceará 1-1 Goiás.

(Photo credits; (1) Alexandre Vidal, (2) Gilvan de Souza, (3) Miguel Schincariol.)

Friday, 17 September 2010

São Paulo Celebrate 20 Years of RC01

My latest article for IBWM looks at one of the most iconic figures in Brazilian football today; São Paulo goalkeeper Rogério Ceni. You can read it here.

Corinthians Beat Fluminense; Botafogo Slip Up Against Goiás

The Campeonato Brasileiro threw up another exciting set of midweek fixtures, not least the first-vs-second clash between Fluminense and Corinthians at the Engenhão. The São Paulo giants scraped a narrow victory, a result that sees them go level on points with their rivals with a game in hand. The rest of the top six also picked up wins, with the exception of Botafogo, whose good form was brought to an abrupt end by Goiás.

Fluminense 1-2 Corinthians
A couple of weeks ago, one might have thought that the winner of this match would have one hand on the Série A title; the two had built up a substantial gap between them and the chasing pack of clubs. Times change, however, and the result, although providing a boost to Corinthians, doesn't look so decisive; Cruzeiro sit just one point behind the pair, with Botafogo, Inter, and Santos all within touching distance. Corinthians' game in hand, then, could yet prove a crucial factor in the title race.

Timão coach Adílson Batista welcomed back Roberto Carlos and Alessandro for the trip to Rio, but again had to make do without Ronaldo, deemed unfit to make the matchday squad. Fluminense were again missing strikers Fred and Emerson, and thus continued with their intriguing 3-4-2-1 formation, with Deco and Conca fluttering around behind Washington in attack.

Jucilei (centre) celebrates his goal with Paulo André and Jorge Henrique.

In a tense opening period, Corinthians succeeded in stifling Flu's usual attacking threat; the Tricolor's only noteworthy effort came from Deco, who couldn't keep his shot down after a fabulous one-two with Conca. As the half wore on, it was Corinthians who began to look the more dangerous; Paulinho drilling just wide of the near post, and Bruno César popping up all around the pitch. The Timão's pressure paid off on the stroke of half time, when Jucilei put them ahead. After a free-kick routine seemed to unravel, the athletic midfielder chested down Elias' cross before volleying a low finish past Fernando Henrique.

Muricy Ramalho rearranged his side at the break, switching to a 4-4-2 with the introduction of Rodriguinho. The attacker nearly made an immediate impression, but could only shoot straight at Corinthians 'keeper Júlio César with the goal beckoning. It was a miss that the home side would live to regret; within fifteen minutes, they found themselves two down, and with a mountain to climb. Alessandro, Corinthians' excellent right-back, was the architect; surging forward and swapping passes with Elias, before squaring for Iarley to slide into the empty net. Flu dragged themselves back into contention when Washington tapped home from close range, but the dye was cast; Corinthians held on for an invaluable three points.

Gameweek 22 Round-up
Cruzeiro's win over Guarani saw them cement their position just behind the leaders; they move to within a point of the Brasileirão summit. In an enjoyable game at the Arena do Jacaré, it was the Raposa who took control, thanks to Rômulo's header and a lovely team move finished off by Wallyson (great name, that). Events heated up towards the end of the half; Guarani manager Vágner Mancini and star player Mazola were both inexplicably dismissed by referee Wallace Nascimento Valente. Guarani stayed in contention thanks largely to an amazing series of saves by Douglas, before sensationally drawing level in the second period; Geovane and Paulo Roberto beating Cruzeiro goalkeeper Rafael. The home side finally got the result their performance merited, though, as headers from Fabinho and Ernesto Farías sealed a 4-2 victory.

Santos starlet Alan Patrick got on the scoresheet against Atlético-GO.

4-2 was also the scoreline at the Vila Belmiro, where Santos came from behind to defeat Atlético Goianiense. Josiel and William put the Dragão into a commanding position, but the seasiders struck four times in fourty minutes to claim the points. Edu Dracena headed home from Neymar's free-kick to get the comeback underway, before Madson's low drive brought the Peixe level. Promising youngster Alan Patrick added a third with a cool finish, and Marcel rounded things off from the penalty spot after Neymar was brought down in the box. It was another controversial evening for the latter, who had a heated exchange with his coach Dorival Júnior after the final whistle.

The Arena da Baixada played host to a clash of two Atléticos; home side Atlético Paranaense claimed a 2-1 over Atlético Mineiro thanks to a late strike from Paraguayan Ivan González. The tie had up to that point been defined by two headers from fine deliveries; Bruno Mineiro had (confusingly, given his name) put the Paraná club ahead from Paulo Baier's corner, and Obina had equalised for the Galo, nodding home Daniel Carvalho's wicked cross. González's goal pushed the Furacão up to seventh in the table, overtaking Ceará who could only manage a goalless draw with Vitória.

Palmeiras put an end to Grêmio's fine run (and ruined the club's 107th anniversary), scraping a 2-1 win in Porto Alegre. Marcos Assunção's delightful free-kick gave the Verdão an early lead, and Ewerton's diving header doubled their advantage. The home side rallied with a late Jonas volley, but had no time to find an equaliser. That result allowed Flamengo to join Grêmio on 26 points, after the Rubro-Negro won for the first time since the 14th of August. It looked as though their miserable run was set to continue when Adriano Pimenta headed Grêmio Prudente ahead on the stroke of half time, but late goals from Diego Maurício and Toró sealed an unlikely comeback. Hopefully Flamengo can learn a lesson from Maurício's impact; the youngster showed glimpses of potential earlier in the campaign, only to be relegated to the bench by a series of signings. Not one of Val Baiano, Cristian Borja, Leandro Amaral, Diogo, or Deivid, however, has got off the mark for the club. Sometimes, even in the pressure cooker that is Flamengo, youth deserves a chance.

Goiás players congratulate Rafael Moura (right) on his second against Botafogo.

Goiás continued their renaissance under Dunga's former seleção assistant Jorginho, routing a previously in-form Botafogo 4-1 at the Serra Dourada. Wellington Monteiro's deflected effort and a Rafael Moura tap-in put the Esmeraldino in control, but 'Loco' Abreu reduced the arrears after good work by Edno. Goiás were not to be denied, however, and Rafael Moura (from the penalty spot) and Bernardo netted further goals. Vasco stay unbeaten under PC Gusmão, but will be disappointed with a result of 1-1 against Avaí, their eleventh draw of the campaign. Ramon headed the Gigante da Colina into a first half lead, but Caio levelled late on for the visitors.

São Paulo must hate playing Internacional; on Thursday night the Porto Alegre side rubbed salt in the Tricolor's Libertadores wounds with a 3-1 win at the Morumbi. Wilson Mathias put the visitors ahead after Andrés D'Alessandro's free-kick had created havok in the São Paulo area, but Cléber Santana levelled matters with a controlled header. Leandro Damião, whose ascent gathers pace with every game, bagged Inter's second; a glorious chipped finish after good build-up from Tinga and Giuliano. The latter then got in on the act himself, instinctively firing in a shot that deceived Rogério Ceni.

Results; Cruzeiro 4-2 Guarani, Santos 4-2 Atlético-GO, Grêmio 1-2 Palmeiras, Atlético-PR 2-1 Atlético-MG, Goiás 4-1 Botafogo, Fluminense 1-2 Corinthians, Vitória 0-0 Ceará, Grêmio Prudente 1-2 Flamengo, Vasco 1-1 Avaí, São Paulo 1-3 Internacional.

(Photo credits; (1) Cleber Mendes, (2) Ivan Storti, (3) Carlos Costa.)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

SKP at the Morumbi!

Better late than never, readers! Nearly two weeks ago now, I had the pleasure of visiting the Morumbi, the stadium of São Paulo Futebol Clube, to watch their Brasilerião clash with Atlético Goianiense. This (drum roll please) is the story of the evening.

São Paulo 2-1 Atlético-GO

After meeting my friend Fabiano near the Pinacoteca in the North of the city, we headed by car towards the Morumbi district, home of the Estádio Cícero Pompeu de Toledo. We left well in advance of the nine o'clock kick-off (São Paulo is the ultimate concrete jungle and usually has the traffic levels to match), but we were pleased to find the route relatively empty, and it wasn't long before the stadium, surrounded by hills, crept into view. Parking was interesting; a whirlwind of negotiation, revs, horns, and swear words, but soon we were strolling onto the main concourse. Built in 1960, the Morumbi is in surprisingly good condition, due to frequent renovations over the years. The crowd included a considerable number of youngsters, girls, and pensioners; as Fabiano informed me (in a completely unbiased manner, naturally), São Paulo prides itself on being more family-friendly than local maniacs Corinthians. (N.B. I have been to a Corinthians game, and it was nowhere near as intimidating as certain people would have had me believe; the atmosphere at the Pacaembu was indeed raucous, but in an entirely positive sense.)

We entered the ground...although not with the riffraff, dear reader. Oh no, your SKP correspondent had VIP status; not, sadly, anything to do with my journalistic ambitions, but rather thanks to Fabiano's girlfriend working for one of the club's sponsors. I wasn't complaining, however, tucking into free food and drink, and taking in the magnificent view. Aside from the Maracanã, the Morumbi is surely Brazil's most iconic stadium; with its swirling Tricolor decoration, elevated floodlight rigs, and an almost unfathomable distance between the supporter and the action. Even from our pitchside position behind the goal, it took a keen eye to keep track of events. With a crowd of just 9,000 (the capacity is 67,000), one may have expected a subdued atmosphere, but the hardcore members of the Torcida Independente (São Paulo's largest fan group) were in fine voice, ably backed up by the pounding beat of the requisite bateria.

In the weeks previous to the game, São Paulo's form had been shaky at best; indeed coach Sérgio Baresi would have been sweating over his future. These nerves translated into a tentative start for the home side, who were admittedly missing some of their key players; Fernandão, Ricardo Oliveira, and Richarlyson were carrying injuries, and Dagoberto only earnt a place on the bench. Midfielder Jorge Wagner made his first start for months, and predictably looked off the pace for most of the game.

It was against the run of play, then, that the Tricolor went ahead. Right-back Jean bent a delightful cross into the six yard box, where centre-back Xandão rose to head past Márcio. The goal gave São Paulo the confidence to control the rhythm of the remainder of the half; young attacker Marcelinho in particular stood out for the home side, with his livewire dribbling and incessant running. Both he and Fernandinho went close before the interval.

The second period saw the introduction of Dagoberto; a former fan favourite who had (undeservedly) become somewhat of a scapegoat after the club's exit from the Copa Libertadores. The little support striker made an immediate impact, cutting in dangerously from his position on the left of the attack. São Paulo looked set to dominate the rest of the game, but then the unthinkable happened; Atlético scored. Newly-promoted, bottom four Atlético. The same Atlético who were in the third division when São Paulo were winning Série A. Elias, the Dragão's playmaker, played in Juninho, who rounded Ceni to tuck home. The stadium groaned as one; "we don't deserve to be near the top of the league if we can't beat this timinho (tiny side)," sighed Fabiano.

Fifteen minutes passed without much excitement. When Dagoberto headed home Marlos' hopeful cross, then, the celebrations rang out not only joy, but a fair dose of shock; this suddenly had the air of a victory plucked from the jaws of defeat. Dagoberto's publicist (do footballers have publicists?) must have been delighted with his celebration; the 27 year-old tore off his shirt and made his way over to the giant SPFC plaque to salute the crowd, who responded in kind with a rousing chorus of "Êêêê, oooo, Dagoberto é o terror!" ("Dagoberto's a terror!") The game predictably tailed off after this sugar rush, but the São Paulinos didn't care; this was the kind of unexpected boost that can ignite a season.

Before making our way home, we desperately tried (but ultimately failed) to get the attention of club icon Rogério Ceni, before sneaking off for a peek at the club's Libertadores trophies, proudly displayed in the club shop. There was also time for a quick photo with the club's mascot, a larger-than-life caracature of the man after whom the city and club are named; Saint Paul himself. It was a fitting end to my pilgrimage to one of the world's most historic stadia.

(Photo credits; All writer's own.)

Monday, 13 September 2010

Cruzeiro and Botafogo Eye Four Horse Race As Leaders Stutter

Just a couple of weeks ago, it looked like just two teams - Fluminense and Corinthians - would be battling it out for the Série A title in the second half of the season. But some shaky form in recent matches has meant that today just four points separate leaders Flu and fourth-placed Cruzeiro.

Corinthians 0-1 Grêmio
The Timão headed into Saturday's game at the Pacaembu eager to defend their unbeaten home record, but were stunned by a resilient Grêmio side undergoing a long awaited resurgence in form. Corinthians were without Ronaldo, rested ahead of Wednesday's showdown with Fluminense, as well as three of their first choice back-line; Moacir, Paulo André, and Leandro Cástan lined up alongside captain William. Grêmio, on the other hand, were close to full strength; buoyed by the recent return to fitness of Souza, and the form of star pair Jonas and Douglas.

In a tentative start to the game, Corinthians struggled to exert their usual influence; an early injury to midfielder Ralf hardly helped matters. It was Grêmio who started to show the greater ambition; Gabriel brought a fine save from Júlio César, before Douglas put the visitors ahead with a wonder goal. Drifting in from the right, the mercurial no.10 burst into the area after nutmegging Paulo André, going on to release a ferocious drive into the top corner. The goal sent the Grêmio fans into raptures, but the man himself declined to celebrate against his former employers. Corinthians almost reacted instantly through their own left-footed wizard; but Bruno César's free-kick curled millimetres wide.

Douglas refuses to celebrate in front of his old fans.

Corinthians, in their retro centenary kit (the designers of which obviously downed tools before getting round to the goalkeeper's shirt - a flourescent yellow number with lightning strikes) came out fighting in the second period, and went close through substitute Danilo. Their golden opportunity, though, arrived on 55 minutes; referee Francisco Carlos Nascimento pointed to the spot after Bruno César went down under Vilson's challenge. The decision looked harsh, and Grêmio's misery was compounded by the red card shown to the defender. Justice was done, however, when Victor saved Iarley's weak penalty. The veteran striker would have another gilt-edged chance before the ball went out of play, but his close-range effort was cleared off the line by Rafael Marques.

Yet more chances fell to Adílson Batista's men; Bruno César drilled wide, Matías Defederico hit the side netting, and Iarley again fluffed his lines with a header. Grêmio held on, though, for a priceless win; they have now taken 10 points from the last possible twelve, and look a new side under Renato Gaúcho. Corinthians, meanwhile, must forget this result and focus on Wednesday's crucial match.

Gameweek 21 Round-up
Fluminense also warmed up for that clash with a disappointing loss; going down 2-1 to Atlético Goianiense. Washington continued his excellent goalscoring run, putting Flu ahead after some standardly classy build-up from Deco and Conca, but the Dragão reacted with a lovely goal of their own; playmaker Elias found William, who slotted home after a quick turn. The minnows went on to snatch the points at the death thanks to Juninho's scuffed strike. On this form, they won't stay in the relegation zone for much longer, something that cannot be said about lowly Grêmio Prudente. The Abelha went down 1-0 to Atlético Mineiro, who recorded their sixth win of the season thanks to Obina's late effort.

On Saturday evening, the permanent soap opera that is Flamengo rolled into Volta Redonda, one of the club's revolving selection of temporary homes with the Maracanã undergoing a renovation. Fla managed two goals in a game for the first time since May, but it was not enough to earn them maximum points against a brave Vitória side. Júnior headed the Leão into the lead from close range, but Kléberson levelled things up with a smart finish. The former Manchester United man would later be the Rubro-Negro's saviour, tapping home in the last minute to cancel out Schwenk's imperious volley. The Rio club's malaise continues, then; if Fla don't beat Grêmio Prudente in midweek, coach Silas' future may well be decided by Saturday's derby with Fluminense. At Flamengo, after all, every coach is on borrowed time.

Cruzeiro maintained their impressive romp up the standings; their victory over Avaí was their fourth on the trot. Roger netted the Raposa's first from the spot (after another soft penalty call), before Thiago Ribeiro's shot rebounded into the net off Avaí 'keeper Renan. Youngster Laércio bagged a late consolation for the Florianópolis side. There was precious little excitement at the Beira-Rio (Inter 0-0 Goiás) or at the Pacembu (Palmeiras 0-0 Vasco), and only Mazola's late individual effort for Guarani rescued their game against Atlético Paranaense from the same fate.

Santos midfielder Arouca gets involved in a dispute after his side's loss to Ceará.

Botafogo consolodated their third-placed position by beating São Paulo 2-0 at the Engenhão. After a goalless opening period, it was fan favourite 'Loco' Abreu who broke the deadlock, pouncing from close range after Caio Canedo's shot was parried by Rogério Ceni. With ten minutes to go, Edno sealed the points, running onto Renato Cajá's through ball to fire low into the corner. Santos, meanwhile, suffered their second consecutive loss, beaten 2-1 by Ceará in Fortaleza. Magno Alves gave the hosts the advantage with a well-placed header, before the Peixe equalised; Keirrison firing his first for the club past Michel Alves after a glorious assist by Neymar. The Vovô, though, claimed their first win in six when Geraldo powered home at the far post. There was some confusion after the final whistle; Santos players were apparently unhappy with the rough treatment received throughout by Neymar, and midfielder Marquinhos claimed to have been struck by a military policement. Only in Brazil, folks!

Results; Flamengo 2-2 Vitória, Corinthians 0-1 Grêmio, Atlético-GO 2-1 Fluminense, Atlético-MG 1-0 Grêmio Prudente, Avaí 1-2 Cruzeiro, Botafogo 2-0 São Paulo, Palmeiras 0-0 Vasco, Internacional 0-0 Goiás, Guarani 1-0 Atlético-PR, Ceará 2-1 Santos.

(Photo credits; (1) Marcelo Ferrelli, (2) Jarbas Oliveira.)

Friday, 10 September 2010

Fluminense Back to Winning Ways; Botafogo Up to Third

The segundo turno of the Brasileirão got underway this week, with Fluminense cementing their position at the top of the table. The Rio club triumphed over Ceará, while Corinthians could only manage a draw against Atlético-PR. Elsewhere, Botafogo and Cruzeiro maintained their great form to oust Santos from the top four.

Fluminense 3-1 Ceará
After two draws and a defeat in the previous three games, Fluminense entered Wednesday's game at the Engenhão looking to get their title tilt back on track. They could hardly have chosen a better opponent; Ceará have been steadily dropping down the table since the World Cup break, and look a shadow of the side that performed so well under PC Gusmão. Flu, though, were without in-form striker Emerson, who looks set to be out for a month due to injury.

Washington clips home his Flu's second.

Any worries that the Tricolor had about adapting to their new home (both they and Flamengo will host most of their games at the Engenhão while the Maracanã undergoes a facelift) were dispelled within six minutes; Mariano's cross from the right flank decieved Michel Alves in the Ceará goal and drifted in at the far post. The home side went on to dominate the opening period, and extended their lead thanks to a brace from Washington. Both were typical Fluminense goals; cool finishes from the big man following outstanding build-up play from Darío Conca.

The second period saw Fluminense understandably take their collective foot off the pedal. Ceará had a couple of decent chances; Kempes headed over from close range and Magno Alves saw has effort clawed away by Fernando Henrique. The Vovô were finally awarded for their toil with a goal, but Geraldo's deflected finish came far too late to worry Flu. Muricy Ramalho's men now hold a three point lead over second-placed Corinthians, but have played one more game than the São Paulo club.

Gameweek 20 Round-up
Goiás recorded only their fourth win over the season, seeing off Guarani at the Serra Dourada. Felipe put the Esmeraldino ahead with a low finish, before Rafael Moura made it two from the spot. Felipe added a penalty of his own in the second half, and Mário Lúcio grabbed a late consolation for the Campinas side. A good result, but as coach Jorginho highlighted after the game, Goiás must produce performances like this far more regularly to escape relegation. Fellow strugglers and neighbours Atlético Goianiense were brought down to earth after last week's goleada of Vitória, losing 2-0 to a resurgent Grêmio side. Douglas, finally starting to show some of the form of his days with Corinthians, gave the Tricolor the lead with a beautiful free-kick, before Borges sealed the points late on.

Atlético Mineiro also remain in the mire at the foot of the table, drawing 1-1 with Vasco at the São Januário. The Rio side, again without their captain Carlos Alberto through injury (the Brazilian Darren Anderton?), took the lead with a rasping effort from former Atlético striker Éder Luís, but the Galo earnt a point thanks to Ricardinho's penalty in the dying minutes. Cruzeiro, Belo Horizonte's other top-flight club are having a considerably better run in Série A, and snuck into the top four following a 1-0 over Inter. Midfielder Everton's first half volley was enough to give the Raposa the victory.

'Loco' Abreu celebrates his winner for Botafogo.

Ronaldo's first goal since May was not enough for Corinthians, who stumbled to a 1-1 draw with Atlético-PR. O Fenômeno smashed home a penalty after a handball, but Bruno Mineiro levelled with a late spot-kick of his own after a digusting dive by Wagner Diniz. Palmeiras too were held away from home, drawing with Vitória at the Barradão. Elkeson, a youngster starting to make a name for himself, put the Leão ahead with a controlled drive, but Tadeu pounced on a rebound to ensure that the points were shared. 1-1 was also the score at the Prudentão, where Grêmio Prudente came from behind against Avaí. Rudnei headed the visitors into the lead, but the Abelha equalised with just five minutes to go through Rafael Martins.

Botafogo move up to third after beating Santos 1-0 at the Pacaembu. In a tight game, it was Uruguayan striker 'Loco' Abreu who handed the points to O Glorioso with a stunning goal. The giant striker, receiving a cross in the area, flicked the ball over Santos 'keeper Rafael before volleying emphatically into the roof of the net. São Paulo continued their recovery, comfortably beating Flamengo at the Morumbi. The Tricolor were ahead within ten minutes; Marlos calmly rounding Marcelo Lomba to finish following a delightful through-ball from Marcelinho. Flamengo were reduced to ten men when Diogo received a second yellow for blatant simulation, and went on to concede a second; a trademark towering header from Fernandão sealed the points for the home side.

(Photo credits; (1) Gilvan de Souza, (2) Ari Ferreira.)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Brasileirão Half Term Awards

My latest article for In Bed With Maradona, evaluating the Campeonato Brasileiro at its halfway point, can be found here.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Grêmio Comeback Stuns Botafogo; Flamengo Draw Another Blank in Maracanã Send-off

Another day of limited internet access, folks, but this should be the last of these rushed updates. I fly back to rainy old England on Wednesday, and you can expect a return to the kind of detail SKP aspires to! For now, though, let me fire through the latest round of the Brasileirão, which proved quite the goalfest.

Gameweek 19 Round-up
An exciting game at the Engenhão saw Botafogo surrender a two goal lead to draw to improving Grêmio. The build-up to the match was dominated by the friendly rivalry between coaches Joel Santana and Renato Gaúcho (both of whom were declared the footballing 'King of Rio' during their playing days), and the game provided similarly enjoyable fare. Botafogo, despite being without their form striker Jóbson, raced ahead, thanks to Antônio Carlos' header and a calm finish from Herrera. O Glorioso, however, were pegged back in the second period; Jonas took advantage of some abject defending from Leandro Guerreiro to slot home, before heading home a late second to rescue a point for Grêmio. Vasco travelled to Fortaleza to face Ceará, the former club of coach PC Gusmão, and came away with maximum points following a 2-0 win. Zé Roberto put the Rio side ahead after good work from Carlos Alberto and Éder Luís, and Felipe Bastos netted a late second.

Grêmio forward Jonas (centre) kick-starts his side's recovery against Botafogo.

Corinthians rounded off their centenary celebrations with a commanding 5-1 win over Goiás at the Pacaembu. Júnior put the Esmeraldino ahead on six minutes with a sumptuous solo effort, but Corinthians reacted in fine style; Bruno César heading home to finish of a deadly break. The no.10 then turned provider for Iarley to steer home a second, and Jorge Henrique got in on the act shortly after. Iarley added his second from the penalty spot, before Marcão's own goal completed the rout. The Timão are now just a single point behind Fluminense, who went down 2-1 to Guarani at the Brinco de Ouro. Emerson put the Tricolor ahead early on, but the home side battled to an unlikely victory, thanks to free-kicks from Baiano and Fabão.

Flamengo bid (a temporary) farewell to the Maracanã with yet another sleepy performance, drawing 0-0 with Santos. Coach Silas will hope that a change of scenery will somehow spur his side into life. Things were only marginally more exciting at the Ressacada, where Avaí hosted Atlético Paranaense. The deadline was only broken in the 94th minute, when Maikon Leite drilled home to snatch all three points for the visitors. Internacional were also victorious on Sunday, beating Grêmio Prudente 2-0 in Porto Alegre. Left-back Kléber produced two trademark crosses for the Colorado, allowing Rafael Sobis and Leandro Damião to steer home a header apiece.

In-form Cruzeiro produced a stunning second half display to overcome Palmeiras 3-2 away from home. Ther Verdão looked to be in control, leading 2-0 thanks to a Kléber penalty and Maurício Ramos' near post header. Cruzeiro coach Cuca must have had strong words at half time, however, as his charges roared back into contention; Roger's deflected effort made it 2-1, before Walter Montillo fired home the equaliser. With just five minutes left, Thiago Ribeiro escaped down the right, and crossed for Ernesto Farías to tap home the winner, completing an amazing comeback.

Atlético Goianiense continued their quest to pull away from the relegation zone, trouncing Vitória 4-1 at the Serra Dourada. Playmaker Elias coolly put the Dragão ahead in the first half, before releasing Juninho to double the advantage. Elkeson reduced the arrears with a fine free-kick, but the comeback would be short-lived. Elias smashed home from the spot (his seventh goal in four games), before Juninho rounded off a fine display with a scuffed finish. There were five goals too at the Ipatingão, where São Paulo beat Atlético-MG 3-2. Casemiro put the Tricolor ahead from close range following a corner, but Atlético reacted well, taking the lead with two Obina penalties. In an exciting second period, however, it was São Paulo who did enough to gain the three points, thanks to Marcelinho and Fernandão.

(Photo credit; Alexandre Loureiro.)

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Flu Held by Palmeiras; São Paulo Back to Winning Ways

Only nine games in the Campeonato Brasileiro this midweek (Corinthians were too busy celebrating their centenary to bother with their game against Vasco), and only 22 minutes for me to write this round-up before my coach from São Paulo back to Rio. This means that the write-up of my trip to the Morumbi last night will have to wait a few days; do bear with me.

Gameweek 18 Round-up
In front of just 3,000 fans at the Prudentão, Botafogo snatched a 1-0 victory against Grêmio Prudente, thanks to Maicosuel's breakaway effort. The three points sees Joel Santana's men sneak into the top four, overtaking Internacional who could only manage a dull goalless draw with Vitória in Salvador. Grêmio, Porto Alegre's other representatives in the Brasileirão, overcame Guarani at the Olímpico; Jonas' far-post header enough to earn them the spoils. Santos moved up to third with a 2-1 win over Avaí. Neymar's low drive put the Peixe ahead, before beefy striker Marcel smashed home a second. Válber pulled one back late on for Avaí, but Santos held on for the win.

Marcel (left) and Alan Patrick celebrate Santos' second.

Wednesday night was kind on the teams from Belo Horizonte, both of which picked up maximum points. Atlético Mineiro finally showed the kind of form their starting XI suggests they're capable of, beating Goiás 3-1 away from home. Bernado put the Esmeraldino ahead from the penalty spot, but Atlético levelled with a spot-kick of their own; cult figure Obina (the subject of one of Brasil's most bizarre chants; "Ôôô, Obina é melhor que o Eto'o!" ("Oohhhhh, Obina's better than Eto'o!")) slamming home from twelve yards. Diego Souza put the Galo ahead in the second half, before another Obina penalty sealed the win. Cruzeiro spoilt Silas' first game as Flamengo coach at the Parque do Sabiá, beating the Rubro-Negro 1-0 thanks to Robert's opportunistic finish.

Fluminense were frustrated at home for the second time in a week, this time conceding a last minute goal to draw 1-1 with Palmeiras. There were touching scenes before kick-off as Luiz Felipe Scolari was reunited with Deco, but any niceties were soon forgotton in a tense game. Emerson put the Tricolor ahead after a goalmouth scramble, and Flu had ample chances to double their lead. They would be made to pay, as Ewerton struck in the third minute of injury time. Atlético Paranaense continued their surprising form, beating Ceará 2-1 at the Arena da Baixada. Branquinho's cool finish gave the Furacão the lead, before Chico volleyed home an emphatic second. Ceará scored a lovely goal through Magno Alves, but it would prove nothing more than a consolation.

The final game saw São Paulo beat Atlético Goianiense 2-1, but stay tuned for more details on that match and my trip to the stadium.

(Photo credit; Ivan Storti)