Sunday 31 October 2010

Conca Inspires Flu to Win Over Grêmio; Corinthians Held by Flamengo

On oddly truncated set of games in the Brasileirão came to an end on Saturday night, having begun back on Wednesday with the Clássico do Povo (the People's Derby) between Flamengo and Corinthians. The São Paulo side could only draw that game, allowing Fluminense and Cruzeiro to pull away at the top.

Fluminense 2-0 Grêmio
This game was billed as a battle between two of Série A's most silky creators; Argentine Darío Conca has been in fine fettle all season, while Douglas' recent exploits for Grêmio have earnt him a spot in Mano Menezes' latest seleção. With two such sublime talents on display, fans at the Engenhão were always likely to be in for a treat; but only one of the left-footed playmakers would stamp their mark on this encounter.

Fluminense were again missing many established names; Emerson, Deco, and Fred are still struggling to shake off injuries, while former Chelsea utility man Juliano Belletti continues to be used sparingly by Muricy Ramalho. Conca once more lined up behind lone striker Washington in a 4-4-1-1 formation. Grêmio, reinvigorated of late under the management of Renato Gaúcho (a former Fluminense player and manager), arguably had more attacking talent at their disposal; the strike partnership of Jonas and André Lima has bloomed in recent weeks.

He came, he saw, he Conca'd. Awful pun.

Despite pressing well early on, the hosts were lucky not to go behind; Léandro Euzébio's clearance cannoned of Gum, and dribbled just wide of Ricardo Berna's goal. The close shave was forgotten withing minutes, however, as Conca opened the scoring in emphatic style. Receiving a pass from Mariano, the No.11 spun his marker before dispatching an unstoppable volley into the top corner. Golaço! Grêmio did build up a head of steam before the interval, but finished the half 1-0 down.

The Porto Alegre side came out fighting in the second period, and should have had a penalty when Jonas was clearly clattered by Léandro Euzébio. The protests of the Grêmio players were still ringing in the air when Fluminense doubled their advantage. Conca (who else?) slipped a clever pass to Washington, who returned the ball accross the six-yard line. Conca, who had continued his run, tapped in to seal a vital victory for the Tricolor Carioca. After the match, the Argentine again mentioned his concern over a possible new contract with the club. On the evidence of this game (heck, of this whole season), Fluminense would be utterly foolish to let him go.

Flamengo 1-1 Corinthians
The rivalry between Brazil's two most popular clubs, Flamengo and Corinthians, has been given added spice in recent years, ever since Ronaldo snubbed the former to sign for the latter. O Fenômeno famously spent months recovering from injury at Flamengo's Gávea complex, yet opted for the São Paulo giants when the Rubro-Negro stalled on a contract offer. For 45 minutes on Wednesday evening, Ronaldo showed the Rio club what they missed out on. The former Real Madrid striker, despite being far from his physical peak, was central in everything that the Timão did, and deservedly found the net with a typically ruthless finish. After receiving Bruno César's pass, Ronaldo rifled a shot into the far corner of Marcelo Lomba's goal. Weight is temporary, class is permanent, as they (should) say.

Standing strong; Ronaldo salutes the crowd after scoring.

Ronaldo faded in the second period, however, and Corinthians were pegged back by Vanderlei Luxemburgo's men. Renato Abreu flicked on Marquinhos' corner, and Diogo found himself free to nod home from close range. It was the striker's first goal in 12 matches. One might have expected the game to explode into life at this point, but instead it fizzled out. Tite replaced both Iarley and Bruno César with more defensive players, and Flamengo only created a couple more half-chances. In truth, 1-1 was a fair result at the Engenhão.

Gameweek 32 Round-up
At the Serra Dourada, Atlético Goianiense met Ceará, with both sides looking to put distance between themselves and the relegation zone. Atlético went ahead when Marcão poked home a loose ball, but then proceeded to waste countless chances. They were made to pay late on, when Michel's free-kick snuck through the hands of goalkeeper Márcio. São Paulo picked up a 2-1 win over Atlético Paranaense, the former club of coach Paulo César Carpegiani. Ricardo Oliveira showed impressive pace and composure to smash the Tricolor into the lead, only for Joffre Guerrón to level with a smart strike. The match was settled just after the interval, when Miranda rose highest to head home Dagoberto's free-kick.

Vitória overcame Vasco da Gama in a goalfest at the former's Barradão stadium. Adaílton bagged the first with a fine individual effort, before Elkeson doubled the home side's lead from distance. Neto Coruja's scrambled effort put Vitória 3-0 up, but Vasco pulled one back with Nunes' header. The Rio side scored again late on through a Fumagalli free-kick, but Vitória were home and dry by that stage, thanks to Júnior's powerful volley. The three points propelled Vitória above Guarani, who lost 1-0 to Avaí. Vandinho scored the game's only goal, heading home from Eltinho's cross.

Santos forward Zé Éduardo celebrates his goal with Alex Sandro.

In a pulsating clash at the Beira-Rio, Santos held hosts Internacional to a 1-1 draw. The Peixe went ahead through Zé Éduardo's sweet left-footed strike, but Léandro Damião responded for Inter just minutes later. Santos had what looked like a legitimate goal ruled out, when Nei cleared Edu Dracena's effort from behind the goal line. Botafogo struck late to snatch three points from their game with Atlético-MG. Edno put O Glorioso ahead with just 15 minutes remaining after some unselfish play by 'Loco' Abreu, before Abreu himself sealed the victory with a cute chip.

Cruzeiro joined Fluminense on 57 points with a routine win over Grêmio Prudente. Léo's long-range rocket gave the Raposa a 19th minute advantage, before Robert sealed the result with a simple header. At the Arena Barueri, Palmeiras battled to a 3-2 victory over lowly Goiás. The Verdão took the lead with Tinga's deflected effort, before Márcio Araújo curled home a delightful second. Jones bundled home for Goiás, but Dinei restored the hosts' two-goal lead with a glancing header. Everton Santos' tap-in came too late for Goiás to mount a serious comeback.

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

(Photo credits; (1) Cleber Mendes, (2) Paulo Sergio, (3) Ricardo Rimoli.)

Friday 29 October 2010

Ronaldinho Gaúcho Recalled to Seleção

Mano Menezes announced the latest Brazil squad this afternoon, ahead of the friendly (if that's the right word...) against Argentina on November 17th. The headline news is the inclusion of Ronaldinho Gaúcho, who hasn't pulled on a seleção jersey since March 2009. The Milan playmaker has been rewarded for his improved club form (at the end of last season, if not the beginning of the current campaign), despite not exactly fitting the youthful profile which has thus far characterised Menezes' Brazil. There was also a recall for Santos starlet Neymar, who was left out of the last squad for disciplinary reasons.

Comeback king; Ronaldinho is back on the international scene.

The full squad list is as follows;
Victor (Grêmio)
Jefferson (Botafogo)
Neto (Atlético-PR)

Daniel Alves (Barcelona)
Rafael (Manchester United)
André Santos (Fenerbahçe)
Adriano Corrêa (Barcelona)
Thiago Silva (Milan)
Alex (Chelsea)
David Luiz (Benfica)
Réver (Atlético-MG)

Sandro (Tottenham Hotspur)
Ramires (Chelsea)
Lucas (Liverpool)
Jucilei (Corinthians)
Elias (Corinthians)
Douglas (Grêmio)
Philippe Coutinho (Internazionale)
Ronaldinho Gaúcho (Milan)

Robinho (Milan)
Alexandre Pato (Milan)
Neymar (Santos)
André (Dynamo Kyiv)

There is a first call-up for Grêmio's enigmatic playmaker Douglas, who at 28 may have thought his chances of an international career had passed. His selection demonstrates once more that Menezes is willing to reward those players who perform to a consistently high standard in the Brasileirão. Douglas, like Lucas and Elias, has also worked with Menezes at club level. All three goal-keepers are based domestically, as is Jucilei, who returns to the squad after missing out against Iran and the Ukraine.

Carlos Éduardo's subdued performances in those two friendlies have cost him his place, and youngsters Giuliano and Wesley must also wait for further chances. Up front, André retains his record of having made every post-World Cup seleção, despite strong competition from the likes of Nilmar and Hulk, both of whom have been in impressive form for their clubs. Another surprising omission is Hernanes, the former São Paulo midfielder who has enjoyed a fine start in Italy with Lazio. Hernanes is seen by many as the ideal candidate to provide the ammunition for Brazil's nippy forwards, particularly in the continued absence of the injured Paulo Henrique Ganso. Mano Menezes, however, evidently begs to differ, and has instead reinstated one of the country's most iconic sporting figures. Few in Brazil would complain if Ronaldinho inspired the seleção to victory over their biggest rivals.

(Photo credit; Getty.)

Goals for Gladiator and He-Man as Copa Sul-Americana Ties End All Square

One of the things that I love most about football in Brazil is that everything and everyone seems to have a nickname. Only in Brazil could it make sense to report a goal by The Gladiator at the Alligator Arena. Yet precisely this happened on Wednesday night, in one of the two all-Brazilian quarter-finals of the Copa Sul-Americana.

'O Gladiador' celebrates his goal for Palmeiras.

At the Arena do Jacaré, in-form Atlético Mineiro played host to Luiz Felipe Scolari's Palmeiras side. In a lively game, it was the Verdão who took the lead; Kléber (the aforementioned 'Gladiator') exchanged passes with Tinga before stetching to side-foot past Renan Ribeiro. The referee awarded Palmeiras a penalty soon after, but overturned his own decision after consultation with his linesman; Lincoln, who was brought down in the area, had been offside prior to the incident. The São Paulo side's disgust was compounded in with 15 minutes to go, when Atlético were given a spot kick of their own. Obina, who tumbled after minimal contact with a defender, himself stepped up to equalise. Palmeiras will feel hard done by, but still have every chance of progressing.

In Brazil's central plateau, it was Rafael Moura (otherwise known as 'He-Man') who rescued a point for hosts Goiás against Avaí. Moura put the Esmeraldino ahead early on with a smart finish, but Avaí reacted in style. Davi levelled from the penalty spot thanks a shocking decision from referee Wilson Luiz Seneme, before Marcelinho bent in a fine second. In the third minute of injury time, however, Rafael Moura exposed the Skeletors in the closet of the Avaí defence (I'm so, so sorry for that pun) to poke home an equaliser. All to play for in the second leg.

Results; Atlético-MG 1-1 Palmeiras, Goiás 2-2 Avaí.

(Photo credit; Ramon Bitencourt.)

Monday 25 October 2010

Galo Knock Cruzeiro Off Top Spot; Corinthians Finally Back On Track

The Campeonato Brasileiro threw up no fewer than four clássicos this weekend, in what proved to be an absorbing rodada 31. The Rio and Porto Alegre derbies finished all square, and there was a narrow win for Corinthians in their clash with Palmeiras. Most exciting of all, however, was Sunday's game at the Parque do Sabiá...

Cruzeiro 3-4 Atlético-MG
Since joining the club a month ago today, Dorival Júnior has brought about a real change of fortune at Atlético Mineiro. A side packed full of quality (consider attackers Diego Souza, Daniel Carvalho, and Diego Tardelli for starters) was languishing in the relegation zone, and had looked utterly directionless under the management of Vanderlei Luxemburgo. Thirty days later, the Galo have moved out of the drop zone, having picked up 13 points out of a possible 18 since Dorival's arrival. The club's position, admittedly, remains precarious, but recent league form (and progress to the Copa Sul-Americana quarter-finals) has instilled a renewed sense of positivity among fans of the Belo Horizonte side.

Obina celebrates his hat-trick goal for Atlético Mineiro.

Atlético's local rivals Cruzeiro have enjoyed a comparatively smooth season, building on a solid start to mount a title push in recent weeks. The tactical nous of Cuca, coupled with the mercurial talents of Argentine playmaker Walter Montillo, has propelled the Raposa into the position of real Serie A contenders; they entered the derby in first place in the table, despite last week's loss to Grêmio.

Atlético came flying out of the traps, and sensationally raced to a three goal lead within thirty minutes. Two goals from Obina got the scoring underway; the forward stylishly converted Leandro's left-wing cross, before profitting from some indecision among the Cruzeiro defence to steer past Fábio. The Raposa were then presented with a golden chance to reduce the arrears, but Montillo contrived to miss the target with a cheeky chipped penalty. The No.10 looked understandably embarrassed, and his misery was compounded by another ruthless Galo attack; Serginho skipped clear on the right before squaring for Obina to complete his hat-trick. Cruzeiro were reeling, although they did manage to pull one back before the break when former Tottenham man Gilberto crashed home from the edge of the area.

The chances continued to flow in the second period, and Cruzeiro went twice close through Ernesto Farías and Marquinhos Paraná. Atlético, though, would land one more sucker punch on their opponents; Rever rose highest from a corner to give the Galo a 4-1 lead with just a quarter of the match remaining. Cruzeiro, to their credit, rallied with a Thiago Ribeiro brace, but were frustrated by some stubborn Atletico defending in the final minutes. A great win for Dorival Júnior's charges, and a spanner in the works of Cruzeiro's title hopes.

Gameweek 31 Round-up
After eight consecutive draws (!), Botafogo finally picked up maximum points, beating Vitória at the Engenhão. Left wing-back Marcelo Cordeiro scored the game's only goal, bending home a sumptuous free-kick from 25 yards. The result saw Vitória slip into the relegation zone after Atlético Goianiense's 1-0 win over Guarani. Marcão made the difference for the Dragão, slotting a finish under Douglas in the Guarani goal. Avai are also in deep trouble at the bottom; the Florianópolis side went down to a Bernado penalty against Goiás.

Ceará put an end to São Paulo's resurgent form, beating the Tricolor 2-0 in baking hot conditions at the Castelão. Magno Alves put the Vozão ahead with a firm header, before Diego Sacoman's rocket from distance sealed the three points. In another midtable clash, Flamengo came from behind to hold Vasco in the clássico Carioca. The São Januário club took the lead in the first half; Cesinha acrobatically turning home after the ball had come back off the woodwork. Vasco were reduced to ten men after Dedé's horror challenge on Willians, and the Rubro-Negro made the numbers pay, equalising through Renato Abreu's glancing header.

Corinthians were boosted by the return of Bruno César.

After a torrid month, Corinthians finally got back to winning ways, overcoming city rivals Palmeiras at the Pacaembu. New boss Tite had the resources at his disposal to employ a more attacking system than Adílson Batista had been using; the strike duo of Ronaldo and Iarley (O Fenômeno and the Paul Dickov look-alike form quite a heartwarming pairing, incidentally) were supported by Bruno César, Elias, and Jucilei all breaking from midfield. Perhaps even more crucial was the availability of the side's first choice back four for the first time since August 22nd; Chicão recovered from injury to take his place alongside William, Alessandro, and Roberto Carlos. It was talismanic midfielder Bruno César who secured the three points, thumping a shot which cannoned off a defender and past the helpless Deola. The Timão, despite their recent troubles, find themselves just one point off the pace at the head of Série A.

Ahead of Corinthians are Cruzeiro and Fluminense; the latter returned to the top of the Brasileirão with a 2-2 draw against Atlético Paranaense at the Arena da Baixada. Washington headed into his own net to give the Furacão the lead, but Marquinho levelled with an exceptional volley. Wagner Diniz netted from a tight angle to put the home side ahead once more, only for Darío Conca to earn Muricy Ramalho's men a point with a late penalty.

A typically raucous crowd inside Grêmio's Estádio Olímpico were treated to an exciting Gre-Nal clash on Sunday. In a tight first half, it was the Tricolor who struck first; Douglas' tempting free-kick was flicked home by André Lima. Inter drew level after Grêmio midfielder Fábio Rochemback indulged in some goalkeeping practice whilst guarding the near post. The ex-Middlesbrough player was rightly sent off, and Alecsandro coolly stroked home the resulting penalty kick. The hosts regained the lead with a wonderful goal. Douglas found André Lima, who picked out Fábio Santos with a smart first-time ball. The Grêmio left-back powered into the box before rifling past Renan. Golaço! It seemed that derby #383 between these two was going to end with a Grêmio win, but a moment of magic from Andrés D' Alessandro ensured that the spoils were shared. The Argentine created half a yard of space outside the area before arrowing a drive into the bottom corner.

André Lima gains a congratulatory kick from Grêmio boss Renato Gaúcho.

Santos fans were in celebratory mood on Sunday, due to the 70th birthday of Pelé, the club's biggest idol. The Peixe faced Grêmio Prudente, who initially appeared content to play the role of whipping boys in the Vila Belmiro carnival; Keirrison headed home his first goal for Santos, before defender Durval blasted home a second. The Abelha, however, would go about ruining the party after the interval; Wesley bagged a quickfire brace, before Gilmar polished off a glorious breakaway team effort. Santos hardly knew what had hit them; the crowd's patter had switched from "Rei!" to "eh?!" in just fifteen minutes. With just seven games left, this lapse could come back to haunt the seasiders.

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

(Photo credits; (1) Celio Messias, (2) Eduardo Viana, (3) Ricardo Rimoli.)

Friday 22 October 2010

All Four Série A Sides Advance in Copa Sul-Americana

It was a fabulous midweek for the Brazilian clubs in the Copa Sul-Americana, all four of which managed to advance to the quarter final stage. Due to the nature of the competition (all Série A sides are kept in one half of the draw), the results guarantee the presence of a Brazilian club in the final.

In a game disrupted by a power cut at the Arena Bareuri, Palmeiras brushed aside Universitario de Sucre. Kléber headed the Verdão ahead from Gabriel Silva's fine cross, before Luan powered home a second in similar style. Sucre briefly rallied, and pulled one back through Damián Cirillo, but Danilo's close range header sealed a 4-1 aggregate victory for Luiz Felipe Scolari's men. Palmeiras will now face Atlético Mineiro, who went through on aggregate despite losing 1-0 to Santa Fé at altitude in Bogotá. Félix Noguera gave the Colombians hope with a snapshot from distance, but the Galo held on to progress.

Palmeiras players keep warm under the faltering Arena Barueri floodlights.

Goiás endured a nervy finale to sneak past Uruguayan giants Peñarol at the Centenário. Rafael Moura continued his fine goalscoring form, putting the Esmeraldino ahead with a brilliantly taken effort, but Matías Corujo pounced on Harlei's fumble to level the tie. Goiás were rocking, and would go into the half-time break 2-1 down due to Marcelo Sosa's glorious drive. The Serra Dourada club were restricted to counter attacks in the second period, but grabbed an invaluable second when Carlos Alberto outran the Peñarol defence to slot home. Alejandro Martinuccio set up a frantic final five minutes with a curling finish, but the hosts could not find the goal that would have sent them through.

One down on the night thanks to Joao Rojas' early goal, and 3-1 down on aggregate, one would have put money on Avaí to succumb to Emelec at the Ressacada. The Florianópolis side, however, produced an amazing ten-minute goal rush to shock their Equadorian opponents, and advance to the quarter finals. Roberto got the comeback underway, nodding home Caio's tempting cross, before Avaí found a lovely second. Caio's slide rule pass was met by Roberto, who was unlucky to see his instinctive finish come back off the post. Thankfully for the Leão da Ilha, Eltinho was on hand to turn home the loose ball. Within minutes, the Avaí fans were sent into raptures; centre-back Émerson leapt highest to flick past Elizaga in the Emelec goal.

Results (aggregate scores); Palmeiras 3-1 Universitario de Sucre (4-1), Santa Fé 1-0 Atlético Mineiro (1-2), Peñarol 3-2 Goiás (3-3, Goiás progress on away goals), Avaí 3-1 Emelec (4-3).

(Photo credit; AFP.)

Monday 18 October 2010

Top Five All Slip Up As Brasileirão Builds to Exciting Climax

The form book has been well and truly thrown out the window in the Campeonato Brasileiro of late, leaving all to play for with eight rounds remaining. In the congested top half of the table (only ten points separate Cruzeiro in first and Palmeiras in tenth), wins for Grêmio and Atlético-PR allowed them to edge closer to the top five, none of whom could claim three points. It's hard to see Atlético maintaining their challenge in the remaining weeks, but if they continue their run of form, Grêmio could well be in with an outside chance. The battle against relegation is also hotting up; wins for Vitória, Atlético-GO, and Atlético-MG have dragged Guarani into the mire. Only Grêmio Prudente, rooted to the foot of the table, look to have accepted their fate.

São Paulo 4-3 Santos
Paulo César Carpegiani has done wonders at the Morumbi since his arrival, transforming what appeared to be a declining force into a contender for a Libertadores spot. São Paulo faced local rivals Santos on Sunday, a rollocking game which produced no fewer than seven goals. The former Atlético-PR coach continued with the attacking system that has proved so succesful of late, picking the trio of Lucas, Dagoberto, and Fernandinho to support Ricardo Oliveira in attack. Santos, who themselves hardly prioritise defensive solidity, lined up with Zé Éduardo up front, supported by the pacy pair of Neymar and Alan Patrick.

It was the latter who started the game's early goalrush, slotting the Peixe ahead after a Rogério fumble. Four more goals would follow before the midway point of the first half. The diminutive Dagoberto glanced home from Ricardo Oliveira's knockdown to draw São Paulo level, and added a second with a fine looping header. The man they call 'Dagol' looked to have completed a 15 minute hat-trick soon after, but replays showed that Santos right-back Pará got the final touch, turning past his own 'keeper in a last ditch effort to halt the Tricolor man. The home side looked to be running away with the game, but Pará made amends for his defensive lapse, crossing for Zé Éduardo to reduce the arrears. The action inevitably tailed off after this breathless exchange, and São Paulo entered the changing rooms 3-2 to the good.

São Paulo forward Dagoberto celebrates his second goal.

The Tricolor were dealt a blow early in the second period with the dismissal of Richarlyson, who needlessly lunged into a tackle on Zé Éduardo and duly picked up a second yellow card. Santos equalised thanks to Neymar's cool penalty, but it would be São Paulo who did just enough to secure the win. Ricardo Oliveira's injury time effort was only parried by Rafael, allowing Jean to nod home the winner. A fantastic game, and three valuable points for São Paulo.

Gameweek 30 Round-up
Flamengo continue to impress under the stewardship of Vanderlei Luxemburgo, and romped to an impressive 3-0 win over stuttering Internacional. Ex-Fenerbahçe striker Deivid opened his account for the club with a brace; the first from the penalty spot, the second a smart header from a corner. Midfielder Renato also got his name on the scoresheet with a powerful 30 yard free-kick. Fellow Rio giants Fluminense and Botafogo met in Sunday's clássico carioca, a game that finished goalless. Fluminense were marginally the stronger, but couldn't find the goal which would have returned them to the summit of Série A.

Ronaldo complains about his first disallowed goal.

Ronaldo returned to the Corinthians starting XI against Guarani, and was unlucky not to hand the Timão a much-needed win. O Fenômeno had two early goals chalked off by the officials; the first decision in particular looked harsh. As it was, Guarani frustrated Corinthians, and scraped a point with a goalless draw. The Timão are now winless in seven matches, and will be hoping that new coach Tite (whose appointment was announced on Sunday evening) will have a positive effect on the side's fortunes. Palmeiras appeared to have seen off Ceará at the Arena Bareuri, having led for much of the second period. A late penalty from veteran midfielder Geraldo, however, cancelled out Marcos Assunção's first half free-kick.

Atlético Paranaense deepened Goiás' relegation plight, snatching a fortunate 2-1 victory over the Esmeraldino at the Arena da Baixada. Branquinho gave the hosts the advantage with a stunning strike from the edge of the area, and Atlético pulled further ahead in controversial circumstances; Ivan González's header was allowed to stand despite being cleared off the line by Ernando. Goiás pulled one back through target man Rafael Moura, but it would prove no more than a consolation. Grêmio Prudente lost for the 16th occasion this season, going down to Salvador club Vitória. It was goalkeeper Julián Viáfara who scored the first goal of Antônio Lopes' reign with the Leão, tucking home a first half penalty. Júnior completed the scoring late on, tapping home after some patient build-up.

Grêmio threw a spanner in the works of Cruzeiro's title tilt, beating the Raposa 2-1 at the Olímpico. Walter Montillo bulldozed his way into the Grêmio area to put the visitors ahead, but débutant Júnior Viçosa acrobatically equalised. The scene was set for man of the moment Jonas to decide the game, smashing home a penalty after Thiago Humberto went down in the box. On the basis of their recent form, Renato Gaúcho's men should break into the top four before the season ends.

Márcio salutes the crowd after his goal for Atlético-GO.

Atlético Goianiense moved out of the relegation zone for the first time in 26 rounds thanks to a victory on Sunday. Second half goals from Anaílson and goalkeeper Márcio were enough for the Dragão against an out-of-sorts Vasco. Atlético Mineiro also picked up a home win, seeing off Avaí at the Arena do Jacaré. Rafael Cruz's low drive put the Galo ahead, before Neto Berola sealed the win with a brilliantly taken breakaway goal.

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

(Photo credits; (1) Tom Dib, (2) Ari Ferreira, (3) Carlos Costa.)

Friday 15 October 2010

Neymar Puts Santos in Title Hunt; Copa Sul-Americana Round-up

There were two Brasileirão games on Wednesday night, as Vasco, Corinthians, Santos, and Internacional finally played their games in hand. In continental competition, three out of four of the Série A's representatives in the Copa Sul-Americana won their last-sixteen first-legs.

Campeonato Brasileiro Round-up

Corinthians, who so recently appeared to be running away with the Série A title, now face a real battle to get back into contention, after Vasco condemned them to a third straight loss. A weakened Timão were without five of their most important players; none of Ronaldo, Jorge Henrique, Dentinho, Ralf, or Bruno César were fit enough to start at the São Januário. Vasco, on the other hand, look rejuvinated of late, and recorded a 2-0 win thanks to strike pairing Zé Roberto and Éder Luís. The former put the Gigante da Colina into a tenth minute lead, emphatically smashing home from Felipe's tempting cross. Corinthians ought to have equalised immediately, but Iarley contrived to slice wide from two yards out. Instead it was Vasco who put the game to bed; Felipe picked out Éder Luís with a clever ball, and the man on loan from Benfica coolly beat Júlio César in the visitors' goal.

Neymar celebrates his ninth goal in this year's Série A.

At the Vila Belmiro, a 1-0 win for Santos allowed them to leapfrog opponents Internacional into fourth place. Neymar, lively throughout, bagged the winning goal; tucking home a low finish after a lightening-fast Peixe attack. The seasiders have a comparatively easy Série A run-in, and will now fancy their chances to push the likes of Cruzeiro and Fluminense all the way to the wire.

Copa Sul-Americana Round-up
A brace from Obina handed Atlético Mineiro a useful two-goal advantage over Santa Fé, ahead of the second leg in Bolivia. The striker ran onto Diego Souza's through ball to slot home the opener, before tapping home from close range in the second half. The Galo are finally showing some promising form, and Dorival Júnior's reputation looks set to grow. Palmeiras also overcame Bolivian opposition, beating Universitario de Sucre at the Pátria stadium. Marcos Assunção grabbed the game's only goal with a trademark free-kick.

Avaí played their first official game outside of Brazil, and were unlucky not to nick a point against Ecuadorian giants Emelec. Eltinho's own goal put the home side ahead, but the Leão da Ilha rallied with Marcelinho's smart finish. There would be late heartbreak for the Florianópolis side, however; Rojas' 47th minute strike for Emelec means Avaí have it all to do in the second leg. Goiás, another side hardly setting the Brasileirão alight, battled to a tight 1-0 victory over Uruguayan side Peñarol at the Serra Dourada. Rafael Moura's close range finish was enough to put the Esmeraldino in the driving seat.

Série A results; Vasco 2-0 Corinthians, Santos 1-0 Internacional.

Copa Sul-Americana results; Emelec 2-1 Avaí, Sucre 0-1 Palmeiras, Goiás 1-0 Peñarol, Atlético-MG 2-0 Santa Fé.

(Photo credit; Ivan Storti.)

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Menezes Continues to Build for the Future

My latest piece for IBWM, reflecting on the Brazilian national team following this week's friendlies, can be found here.

(And for those who might have missed them, all of my previous IBWM articles can be accessed here.)

Daniel Alves and Pato On Target Again as Brazil See Off Ukraine

Brazil cruised to a 2-0 win over the Ukraine at Derby's Pride Park (!) on Monday night, to hand Mano Menezes his third straight win as national team coach. Although the performance again failed to hit the heights of the victory over the USA, there were plenty of positive signs, not least the continuing form showed by relative veterans Alexandre Pato and Daniel Alves.

Ramires finds a way past Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.

It was the latter who put Brazil ahead, opportunistically latching on to Robinho's cross to arrow a shot in off the far post. The goal was one of the few moments of excitement in a sleepy first half, as Brazil, with Elias making his first start alongside Lucas and Ramires in the centre of midfield, struggled to find their rhythm. The second period was little better; the Ukraine threatened Victor's goal on more than one occassion, and would have been disappointed not to have drawn level. As it was, however, Brazil nicked a scarcely deserved second. Carlos Eduardo, subdued for most of the tie, found some space down the right, and crossed for Pato. The Milan striker, with his back to goal, still had plenty to do, but brilliantly spun his marker to poke home. Three goals in three games now for a man deemed surplus to requirements at the World Cup.

As the final whistle blew, a collective yawn echoed out among the meagre crowd of 13,000. This was hardly a vintage Brazil performance, but it would take the most churlish of fans to complain at this point. The general trend since Dunga fell on his sword has undoubtedly been upward; Menezes has quickly set about restoring the magic and mystique so essential to the country's footballing wellbeing.

(Photo credit; Paul Ellis)

Monday 11 October 2010

Cruzeiro Go Top After Win Over Flu; Batista Sacked Following Corinthians Loss

Another set of games in the Brasileirão, and another head rolls; this time Corinthians boss Adílson Batista was the unlucky party, dismissed after watching his side go down to Atlético Goianiense. That result allowed Cruzeiro, who claimed a narrow win over Fluminense, to assume the leadership of Série A...

Cruzeiro 1-0 Fluminense
In a league with so many managerial changes, there seems to be a classic "coach comes back to haunt his former employers" story on an almost weekly basis. So it was on Sunday at the Parque do Sabiá, when Cuca, sacked as Flu coach earlier this year, led Cruzeiro to a victory that saw them leapfrog the Tricolor into first place in Série A. The Belo Horizonte side have been in scintillating form of late (they have now won ten of their last fourteen games), largely due to the revitalising arrival of Cuca and some smart signings including the Argentine playmaker Walter Montillo.

Cruzeiro forward Wellington Paulista holds of Gum of Fluminense.

The No.10 lined up in his familiar role behind strikers Thiago Ribeiro and Wellington Paulista; the former a pacy player who drifts wide, and the latter a more pure finisher. Behind the attacking trio, the Raposa employ a rather prosaic system; plenty of midfield protection for the defence has been the key to the league's meanest defence. Muricy Ramalho again had to make do without star striker Fred, who limped off the pitch in last week's game against Santos. With Emerson also out, he again turned to Rodriguinho to provide the foil for Washington up front. Thiaguinho filled in at right-back for Mariano, who is on seleção duty.

Fluminense had the better of the early chances; Conca testing Fábio, and Washington twice failing to properly connect with tempting crosses. Cruzeiro, however, would only need one opportunity. Montillo, unusually subdued for much of the tie, produced a moment of class, chipping a glorious cross into the path of Wellington Paulista. The forward still had plenty to do, but stretched to arc a subtle header past Rafael in the Flu goal. The Rio giants almost replied before the interval, but Rodriguinho blazed over.

Both sides lost some impetus when Deco and Montillo limped off injured, but Cruzeiro continued to create chances in the second period. The lively Wellington Paulista was denied a second initially by the woodwork, and then by a tight offside decision. Solid throughout, Cuca's men would allow Flu only one real chance before the final whistle; it fell to Rodriguinho, who again skied his shot when it looked easier to score. Joy for Cruzeiro, while Muricy Ramalho has some thinking to do.

Gameweek 29 Round-up
Atlético Paranaense continue to struggle after the departure of Paulo César Carpegiani, losing 2-0 to Santos. Substitute Maranhão put the Peixe with a low drive, before Neymar was brought down in the area. The youngster, who also assisted the first, finally showed a sign of growing maturity, allowing the in-form Zé Éduardo to stroke home the spot kick. The win allowed Santos to leapfrog Botafogo, who could only draw 0-0 with Palmeiras. The game was not without incident, however; 'Loco' Abreu missed a penalty for O Glorioso, and Kléber was sent off for lashing out at Alessandro.

Grêmio's in-form striker Jonas (centre) celebrates with partner André Lima.

Grêmio's fine form looked to be ending at the São Januário, but a fine comeback allowed them to rescue a point against Vasco da Gama. The home side went ahead early on when Éder Luís beat the offside trap and slotted home, but Jonas replied for Grêmio with a delightful long range strike. Cesinha's header and a deflected Felipe Bastos free-kick put Vasco in command, but they were pegged back by another sensational strike from Jonas. The striker sylishly tucked home his 19th goal in the Brasileirão (and his 40th in 2010) after a one-two with André Lima. With time running out, Gabriel swung his left foot at a loose ball, and watched in joy as it beat Fernando Prass at his near post. Frustration for Vasco, joy for the Tricolor.

São Paulo picked up a good away win against Grêmio Prudente thanks in large part to a hat-trick from forward Ricardo Oliveira. The former Zaragoza man bent in a free-kick from fully thirty yards to open his account, only for Wesley to equalise scrappily at the other end. Oliveira doubled his tally with a cool finish following Rodrigo Souto's masterful through ball, before rifling a third in off the bar. Wesley tucked home a smart finish in injury time, but it would prove no more than a consolation for the Abelha, who remain stranded at the bottom of the table. Above them, however, an enthralling five-way (seven-way, if you count Flamengo and Guarani) battle against relegation is developing, after Goiás claimed a vital win over Vitória. Bernardo's well-struck free kick was enough to seal all three points for Jorginho's men. Atlético Mineiro, however, could not maintain their recent form, going to down 1-0 to Internacional. It was a busy day for Alecsandro, who headed home the winner for the Colorado before receiving a late red card for a rash challenge on Alê.

Ceará comfortably saw off Guarani at the Castelão thanks to first half goals from Geraldo and Boiadeiro. The former (a veteran midfielder) just stretched enough to poke the Vovô ahead (although he may not be able to walk in the morning), before the latter floated a fine free-kick into the top corner of Douglas' net. Vanderlei Luxemburgo's Flamengo appeared to have done enough for a second consecutive win against Avaí at the Ressacada; Val Baiano netted a brace of close-range finishes to give the Rubro-Negro a 2-0 lead at the break. The Leão da Ilha reacted magnificently, however, reducing the arrears through Emerson's header, before levelling when Roberto glanced home a corner.

Adílson Batista looks on as his Corinthians career collapses.

Corinthians have been a relatively stable club since their return to Série A, and that looked to have continued with the reign of Adílson Batista. When the 42 year-old assumed his coaching post in July in the wake of Mano Menezes' step up to the seleção, he represented an almost seamless transition into a new regime; keeping faith with the players and tactics that had served his predecessor so well, and maintaining the side among the top two. Things change quickly in Brazilian football, however, and after the Timão's loss to Atlético-GO (their fifth straight game without a win) Batista was shown the door. Things started well for Corinthians when Leandro Castán's instinctive finish put them ahead within two minutes, but what followed showed a frailty that has not frequently been present in recent times. Juninho's scrambled effort brought Atlético level, before Gilson found himself in acres of space to put the Dragão in front. Marcão coolly added a third, provoking the home fans to boo their own players into the dressing room. Marcão repeated the trick after the break, drilling home to put the Atlético fans in dreamland. The dye was cast well before William Morais and Thiago Heleno found the net late on for the hosts; Corinthians were down to third, and will be looking for their third coach of the campaign.

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

(Photo credits; (1) Beto Oliveira, (2) Paulo Sergio, (3) Eduardo Viana.)

Friday 8 October 2010

Luxa's Reign at Flamengo Starts With a Win, Cruzeiro Rise to Second

In most countries, domestic action pauses when the national team plays. Not in Brazil. The midweek Série A games went ahead as usual, producing some intriguing results. Fluminense and Corinthians both lost, allowing Cruzeiro to break their duopoly at the head of the table with a win over Goiás. In fact, Cruzeiro aside, none of the top six could manage a victory; Inter, Botafogo, and Atlético Paranaense all failed to register maximum points. Lower down the table, there was finally some light at the end of the tunnel for Flamengo...

Flamengo 2-0 Atlético Goianiense
It must be tough being a Flamengo fan. An ever-changing cast of players, coaches, technical staff flutter in and out of Gávea, meaning that only the club's name and shirt design provide any semblance of continuity. When Silas left the club last week (following hot on the heels of Zico, a club idol and Director of Football for all of four months), the Flamenguistas would have been forgiven for fearing the worst; their side had picked up just one win in ten games, and were slipping dangerously close to the relegation zone.

Now let's be clear. Flamengo remain just five points from the drop zone; this, of course, was just one win. But, for this writer, Flamengo have reason to be cheerful; they have appointed Vanderlei Luxemburgo, one of Brazil's most successful coaches. True, 'Luxa' has just come off the back of a horrid spell at Atlético Mineiro, but in the context of his career, this looks like an anomaly; a quick glance at his achievements (five Campeonato Brasileiro and eight Campeonato Paulista titles) leaves one with little doubt about his prowess. If anyone can drag Flamengo from this latest crisis, it's him.

Flamengo's heavy hitter Val Baiano.

Against Atlético-GO, the Rubro-Negro lined up with much the same personnel as have been underperforming of late; Deivid and Diogo continued up front, with Petkovic providing support from midfield. Diogo, however, limped off in the first period, to be replaced by the bizarrely under-used Diego Maurício. In a tight opening period, it was Fla who went closest; Willians sent a header just wide, before Correa threatened with a smart volley. The half, though, would end goalless; a familiar tale of late for the Rio side.

Fla came out fighting in the second half, however, and soon laid siege to the Dragão goal; Correa, Petkovic, and Diego Maurício all saw efforts well saved by Márcio. The opener, though, would come from an unlikely source; Val Baiano, a forward so out of form (and out of shape) that he's become the butt of a series of jokes in Brazil (samples; "for Val Baiano, there's no such thing as an ugly goal. Or a beautiful one." "When Val Baiano plays football with his son, his son lets him score."). The former Bareuri man, though, stuck it to his critics, powerfully heading home from a Marquinhos cross. Baiano celebrated exactly how you'd expect a man who hadn't scored for months to celebrate.

Flamengo looked comfortable, but made sure of the victory with a second goal. Diego Maurício bullishly held off two markers, before slotting smartly home. As Luxemburgo danced a jig down the touchline, it was hard not to see this as a turning point for Flamengo. The Rubro-Negro will, of course, face much harder tests than this, but with struggling Avaí next up, the side will fancy themselves to pull away from the relegation dogfight, at least in the short-term.

Gameweek 28 Round-up
Fluminense suffered a huge blow to their title challenge at the Engenhão, going down 3-0 to a Zé Éduardo-inspired Santos. The striker overshadowed some of the more well-known forwards on display (Neymar, Fred) to net a stunning second half hat-trick for the Peixe. He got off the mark with a smart bicycle kick after Neymar's effort came back off the woodwork, before added an opportunist second; chasing a long-ball before volleying gloriously past Rafael. Promising left-back Alex Sandro created the third, skipping away down the left before squaring to give Zé Éduardo the easiest of finishes. Flu were dealt a further blow when Fred limped off with yet another injury.

Why so serious? Santos hat-trick hero Zé Éduardo.

Grêmio continued their fine form, seeing off quasi-namesakes Grêmio Prudente at the Olímpico. The Tricolor led within a minute when André Lima poked home, and doubled their advantage when Jonas finished off a slick move. Jonas, the league's top scorer, then volleyed home an impeccable effort from 25 yards, before completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot. Grêmio are now closing in on Botafogo and Atlético-PR, neither of whom could claim a win on Wednesday night. Atlético played out a goalless draw with Vasco at the Arena da Baixada, while Botafogo drew 1-1 with Guarani. Barboza headed the Bugre ahead, but 'Loco' Abreu responded in kind for Fogo.

São Paulo beat Vitória at the Arena Bareuri, on Paulo César Carpegiani's first game back in charge of the club. Dagoberto flicked home the opener following some delightful build-up, and Fernandinho powered his way through to tuck home a second. Fortaleza club Ceará picked up a useful victory too, beating Internacional at the Castelão thanks to Heleno's rocket. Atlético Mineiro's upturn in fortunes continued, as they came from behind to beat Corinthians 2-1. Paulinho put the Timão ahead following another goalkeeping error from Fábio Costa, but second half headers from Werley and Zé Luís gave the Galo an important three points. If they avoid relegation, Dorival Júnior's reputation will only be strengthened further.

Atlético Mineiro goalscorer Werley celebrates.

Cruzeiro moved to second in Série A with a tight win over Goiás at the Serra Dourada. The unlucky Jonílson headed the game's only goal into his own net after a dangerous Walter Montillo cross. Palmeiras maintained their resurgence, routing Avaí by 4 goals to 1 at the Pacaembu. Chilean playmaker Jorge Valdivia was the main protagonist, heading the Verdão into the lead before later smashing home from 25 yards. Roberto scrambled home Avaí's lone effort, but Kléber's penalty and Gabriel's long range strike completed the goleada.

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

(Photo credits; (1) Maurício Val, (2) Cleber Mendes, (3) Bruno Cantini.)

Seleção Cruise to Win Over Iran

It may not have been the a performance as exciting as the one they produced against the USA, but yesterday Mano Menezes' seleção ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over Iran in Abu Dhabi. On a night of débuts for Brazil, it would be three relatively experienced campaigners, Daniel Alves, Alexandre Pato, and Nilmar, who would grab the goals to see off the Persian stars.

Having left Neymar out of the squad for disciplinary reasons, and with Paulo Henrique Ganso out injured, Menezes was forced to reshuffle his personnel in order to maintain the 4-2-1-3 formation that had served him so well in New Jersey. Philippe Coutinho, the ex-Vasco playmaker currently making waves in Italy with Internazionale, was handed a first start, while the mercurial Carlos Éduardo was brought in to compliment Robinho and Pato in attack. Ramires and Lucas reprised their deeper midfield roles, and the defence to was unchanged from the USA game.

Alexandre Pato celebrates his second goal in two games under Mano Menezes.

A sleepy Brazil were given a scare right at the outset; Iran forward Mohammad Gholami found the back of the net, only to see his effort (correctly) ruled out for offside. It would take a moment of brilliance from Daniel Alves to shake Brazil into life; the Barcelona full-back arrowed home a sumptuous free-kick from 25 yards after Pato had been brought down. Alves celebrated by raising four fingers, alluding to the number of years for which he's represented his country. The seleção almost added a second in the following minutes, but Pato and Robinho were denied by Khosro Heydari and the post respectively.

The fervent attacking, however, would die down well before the interval. Robinho, entering the changing room, acknowledged that the seleção were somewhat off the pace; "we have to improve and score a couple's so hot...that's why we're playing at such a low tempo." Elias, a player Menezes always relied on to provide energy in the Corinthians midfield, entered in place of the subdued Coutinho, but Brazil started the second half in the same uninspired manner that they'd ended the first. Iran were again unlucky not to get on the scoresheet; Hashem Beikzadeh's effort came back off the inside of the post.

When Brazil did begin to find an attacking foothold, it was Alexandre Pato at the centre of the action. The Milan forward saw his close-range shot saved after a perfect André Santos cross, before testing Iran 'keeper Rahmati with a drive from distance. Menezes threw on more fresh legs in the shape of Internacional starlet Giuliano, former Santos midfielder Wesley, and centre-back Réver (all of whom were making their seleção débuts), and would have been pleased to see his side improve in the closing stages. After some intricate passing instigated by Elias, Pato would finally hit the back of the net; smashing into the top corner with the minimum of fuss.

In added time, André Santos once again escaped down the left and fired accross the face of goal for the onrushing Nilmar (another second half substitute) to complete the scoring. In truth, the result was one that flattered Brazil, who were far from their best for long periods at the Zayed Sports City stadium. Nonetheless, Menezes will be pleased with his side's ruthlessness, and the promising form of many of his players; André Santos and Alexandre Pato in particular really built on the excellent starts they made against the USA. In addition, the match provided valuable experience for the five débutants on show, all of whom will be hoping to cement a place in Menezes' long-term plans.

It remains unclear whether the former Grêmio coach will continue to snub many of Brazil's more senior players (Kaká, Lúcio, Maicon, Júlio César), but one thing is for certain; the youthful, attacking football that the seleção produced in New Jersey, and in patches yesterday, is providing an effective tonic for Brazil's post-World Cup woes. Parabéns, Mano!

(Photo credit; Kamran Jebreili.)

Sunday 3 October 2010

Atlético Mineiro Lifted by Win Over Dragão; Top Three All Stumble

Another brief round-up this week, folks; my new flat is now full of furniture, but still lacks internet. It was a good weekend for Dorival Júnior, who claimed his first win as Atlético-MG coach against fellow strugglers Atlético-GO. Corinthians, Fluminense, and Cruzeiro all drew, allowing fourth-placed Inter to edge closer to the leading pack.

Gameweek 27 Round-up
Vasco and Goiás played out an enjoyable game at the São Janúario; the home side twice came from behind to win 3-2. Felipe smashed Goiás into an early lead, before Éder Luís coolly brought the Gigante da Colina level. Jones (!) tucked away a deft finish to put the visitors ahead once more, but two powerful second half strikes from Max and Zé Roberto gave Vasco the win. Elsewhere in Rio, the clássico between Botafogo and Flamengo ended 1-1, a result which helps neither side. Lúcio Flávio's gorgeous free-kick put Fogo in front, but Léo Moura pounced to equalise after Petkovic's penalty was saved by Jefferson.

In the clássico paulista, Santos came behind to hold Palmeiras, on an afternoon when Neymar sported the number 100 to celebrate a century of games for the Peixe. Kléber half-volleyed the Verdão into a first half advantage, but youngster Alan Patrick's deflected effort ensured the spoils were shared. São Paulo, too, could only manage a point; the Tricolor stumbled to a dull goalless draw with Avaí. The Morumbi club will hope that Sunday's appointment of Paulo César Carpegiani (who surprisingly left his post at Atlético Paranaense) will reinvigorate their patchy form. Carpegiani, incidentally, signed off on a high; Atlético earnt a creditable 0-0 draw with Cruzeiro, and sit in fifth position.

One hundred club; Santos forward Neymar.

Both Porto Alegre clubs romped to 3-0 wins; Grêmio and Inter triumphed over Vitória and Gurani respectively. Maylson bagged the opener for Grêmio after a defensive mix-up, before injury time goals for Diego and Edílson wrapped things up. Inter flew into an early lead when Daniel rounded off a slick team move, and the Colorado added to their tally thanks to tidy left-footed finishes from Glaydson and Giuliano.

Last met first at the Prudentão, but Grêmio Prudente tore up the script to claim a point against Fluminense. The in-form Rodriguinho put Flu ahead with a stunning volley, but Willian earnt the Abelha a draw. Corinthians too were frustrated on Saturday, as they could only manage a 2-2 draw with Ceará at the Pacaembu. In fact, things could have been far worse for the Timão; Ceará led 2-0 thanks to a breakaway Marcelo Nicácio goal and Magno Alves' near post strike. Paulinho dragged the São Paulo giants back into contention, however, and the oft-maligned Matías Defederico saw his free-kick drift in for a fortunate equaliser.

Dorival Júnior guided Atlético Mineiro to an important win over fellow relegation candidates Atlético Goianiense at the Serra Dourada, a result that suggests that this sleeping giant might finally be creaking into life. Robston put the Dragão ahead with a thunderous free-kick, but Diego Souza levelled for the Belo Horizonte side with a fine diving header. Juninho restored Atlético Goianiense's lead, but the Galo reacted once more; recent seleção call-up Réver netting with a glorious overhead kick. The winner came in stoppage time, when Ricardo Bueno bundled home. Light at the end of the tunnel for Dorival's charges.

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

(Photo credit; Lancenet)

Friday 1 October 2010

Cruzeiro and Inter Results See Top Three Pull Away in Série A

Firstly, I urge you, loyal readers, to excuse the brevity of this article; I'm halfway through moving house (it's going fine, thank-you for asking), and need to return to back-breaking labour relatively soon. With that in mind, on with midweek round-up! The Brasileirão looks to be becoming a three-horse race, as another win for Cruzeiro extended their lead over fourth-placed Internacional to six points. Fluminense confirmed that they're still the team to beat, restoring a three-point advantage over Corinthians after the latter were held by Botafogo.

Gameweek 26 Round-up
Vasco picked up a good win over Santos, beating the Peixe 3-1 at the São Januário. Fágner's smart volley put the Gigante da Colina ahead, before Felipe made it two, turning home on the rebound after his penalty was saved by Rafael. Danilo pulled one back for Santos, but Éder Luís sealed the points with a delightful individual effort. Flamengo's woes continued with a disappointing draw against Goiás. In truth, the Rubro-Negro were lucky to earn a point; Jean's amusing own goal was only cancelled out in the last minute by a low drive from Deivid.

Vasco wing-back Fágner celebrates his goal against Santos.

Palmeiras derailed Inter's title push, claiming a 2-0 win at the Arena Bareuri thanks to two long-range free-kicks from Marcos Assunção. Atlético Paranaense maintained their romp up the Série A standings with a 1-0 win over Vitória. The Furacão now occupy fifth position thanks to Rhodolfo's header. Dorival Júnior is still looking for his first win as coach of Atlético Mineiro, as the his side could only stutter to a goalless draw with Ceará. The Galo (who, if you haven't been paying attention, have a squad to match any of the title contenders) need to start picking up wins sooner rather than later if they're to have a decent chance of escaping the drop.

In the São Paulo (state-but-not-city) derby, Grêmio Prudente did their survival hopes the world of good, beating Guarani 4-2 at the Prudentão. Willian put the Abelha ahead from the spot (awful decision, by the way), before Wesley smashed home a lovely brace to put Guarani in command. Wanderley's gorgeous chip levelled things up once more, and Mazola's penalty (which he won with a shameless dive) sneaked in to give Prudente the advantage once more. Reinaldo added an acrobatic fourth late on. Fluminense defeated Avaí, another team in danger of relegation, by a single goal at the Estádio da Cidadania; Darío Conca turned at the far post to keep the Tricolor at the head of the Campeonato Brasileiro.

Cruzeiro strolled to a comfortable win over Atlético Goianiense, and in doing so pulled away from Inter in fourth. Cláudio Caçapa scrambled home the opener, before Walter Montillo coolly tucked away a second. A smart finish from Wallyson rounded off the scoring. Second-placed Corinthians were held by Botafogo at the Pacaembu, a result that places yet more importance on the Timão's forthcoming game in hand. Bruno César put Corinthians ahead with a brilliant lob, only for 'Loco' Abreu to power home a trademark header to level matters. Things could have been worse for the home side, but Herrara's second half strike was wrongly ruled out by the officials.

Unpredictable Grêmio produced a stunning display at the Olímpico, beating São Paulo 4-2 on Wednesday night. A double for André Lima (the first a trademark tap-in, the second a glanced header) put the Tricolor Gaúcho in command, but São Paulo roared back into contention; a Rogério penalty and a smart finish from Marlos brought them level. It would be Grêmio, however, who would finally do enough to win; Jonas blasted home from the spot, before Diego pounced on a rare Rogério error to secure maximum points for the Porto Alegre side.

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

(Photo credit; Lancenet)