Friday, 8 April 2011

Santos Overcome Colo-Colo in Dramatic Libertadores Clash; Palmeiras Reach Paulistão Summit

In this week of eighteen Champions League goals, the Copa Libertadores would have been forgiven for cowering in the corner, jealously observing its cousin's domination of the football dancefloor. Luckily for us, however, it did nothing of the sort; South America's premier club competition dusted off its glad rags and produced some drama of the highest calibre. There was a potentially ruinous defeat for Fluminense, a surprise loss for the previously unbeaten Internacional, and a five goal (and five red card) thriller between Santos and Colo Colo. Among all the excitement, it was Grêmio who kept their heads to guarantee a place in the last 16.

There was also, of course, a full schedule of state championship and domestic cup games; Brazil is a country that seems to cram a month into every seven-day period. With that in mind, let's cut to the chase...

Santos 3-2 Colo-Colo
If you like watching games with plenty of goals, indiscipline, and bizarre drama (that is, if you like football), then you're going to enjoy watching Santos. The seasiders are committed proponents of the the "you score six, we'll score seven" philosophy, and have a staggering array of attacking talent at their disposal; Zé Éduardo, Maikon Leite, Diogo, and Keirrison (OK, so maybe not the latter two!) all compete for one striking spot alongside Brazil stars Neymar, Elano, and Paulo Henrique Ganso.

Wednesday night's Libertadores clash with Colo-Colo provided an instructive example of the kind of drama Santos tend to provide; the Peixe raced into a 3-0 lead at the Vila Belmiro, but only just managed to hold out for the three points after a drastic late capitulation. Elano's delightful free-kick put the hosts ahead, before a deflected strike from Danilo stretched their advantage. Santos added a third early in he second half, when the mercurial Neymar danced through the Chilean side's defence before clipping casually home.

Neymask; the young Santos young striker celebrates his goal.

What followed, however, was even more arresting; Neymar received a second yellow card after putting on a mask handed to him by a fan. Brilliantly, photos later showed that the mask in question was one of NEYMAR'S OWN FACE, and was one of hundreds that had been distributed around the stadium as part of an advertising campaign. This was sport at its pantomime best, although an understandably displeased Neymar failed to see the funny side.

The excitement, though, was far from over. The hot-headed Zé Éduardo indulged in some handbags with Andrés Scotti, an incident which culminated in both players being dismissed. Patricio Jerez then brought the visitors back into contention, before Diego Rubio made it 3-2; finishing off a fine move with a composed finish. Santos nerves were beginning to fray; Elano, who had already been substituted, threw a towel at the Colo-Colo bench, and received a red card of his own. The Peixe would, by hook or by crook, manage to hold out in the remaining minutes; but not before Cristóbal Jorquera had racked up the game's fifth dismissal.

This was a rivetting encounter, even by Santos' standards, but it comes with a cautionary rejoinder. The imminent appointment of Muricy Ramalho, a coach who favours defensive discipline and pragmatism above all else, could spell the end of the seasiders' joyous approach. In a week in which former seleção icon Sócrates felt the need to bemoan the lack of joy in modern football, this would be a sad development indeed.

Copa Libertadores Round-up
Fluminense's terrible start to the year got worse on Wednesday night, as they crashed to a 2-0 defeat to Nacional in Uruguay. After a promising first half display, the Tricolor simply ran out of steam after the interval, and allowed Santiago García to net the crucial goals. Flu, whose Libertadores hopes were already hanging by a threat before the game at the Centenário, now need a mathematical miracle to reach the knockout stages. The ire aimed by supporters at coach Enderson Moreira, however, seems somewhat misplaced given that he is only acting as caretaker until the arrival of Abel Braga.

Fluminense midfielder Souza probes for an opening against Nacional.

There was better news for Grêmio, who sealed their place in the knockout stages with a 2-0 win over Junior Barranquilla. Lúcio and Borges both got on the scoresheet for the Tricolor, whose campaign has been quietly effective so far. Neighbours Internacional, meanwhile, who had hitherto been thoroughly impressive in the competition, turned in a woeful display against Jaguares, and were beaten 1-0.

Campeonato Paulista Round-up
Palmeiras moved to the top of the Paulistão with a 1-0 win over Santos on Sunday. Off the pitch, the Verdão, who have been so reliant on Kléber (the forward who bagged the winner at the Vila Belmiro), finally signed another striker; Wellington Paulista arrives on loan from Cruzeiro. Although perhaps not the marquee signing that fans hoped for, Wellington clearly ticked a number of boxes for Luiz Felipe Scolari; he is a hard worker both in attack and defence, seems unlikely to moan about being benched occasionally, and knows Kléber well from their time in Belo Horizonte. Things are looking up for Palmeiras.

At the Arena Barueri, a stunning individual goal from Lucas handed São Paulo a narrow victory over Mirassol. The young attacker surged from the halfway line, beating countless defenders before slotting home. Que golaço! Corinthians, meanwhile, could only manage a goalless draw wih Botafogo-SP.

Campeonato Carioca Round-up
Vasco maintained their upward trend under the stewardship of Ricardo Gomes, beating Bangu 4-0 at the Engenhão. Veteran playmaker Felipe was again the star of the show, playing a role in the opening three goals before curling home one of his own. At the Engenhão, Botafogo needed a late Antônio Carlos strike to rescue a point against Resende, but there were away wins for Flamengo (2-0 against Duque de Caxias) and Fluminense (2-1 against Volta Redonda).

Vasco forward Éder Luís celebrates his goal against Bangu.

Copa do Brasil Round-up
The second round of the cup was finally completed on Wednesday night, with no fewer than seven teams booking their place in the last 16. Botafogo and Caxias made light work of Paraná and Botafogo-PB respectively, but Vasco needed a late Bernardo strike to overcome ABC-RN. Goals from Rhodolfo and Ilsinho allowed São Paulo to overturn a first leg deficit against Santa Cruz, but Atlético Mineiro crashed out against Grêmio Prudente. Bahia and Santo André also progressed.

Best of the Rest
Cruzeiro remain top of the Campeonato Mineiro after a win and a draw this week, but Atlético-MG could close the gap with a win over Caldense on Sunday. In the Gauchão, Grêmio recorded a tightly-fought win over Veranópolis, but Inter could only manage a 1-1 draw with Lajeadense. Elsewhere, Adílson Batista, who was recently sacked by Santos, was appointed as the new Atlético Paranaense boss.

Selected results. Carioca; Vasco 4-0 Bangu, Volta Redonda 1-2 Fluminense, Duque de Caxias 0-2 Flamengo, Botafogo 1-1 Resende. Paulista; Santos 0-1 Palmeiras, São Paulo 1-0 Mirassol, Botafogo-SP 0-0 Corinthians. Libertadores; Grêmio 2-0 Junior Barranquilla, Santos 3-2 Colo-Colo, Jaguares 1-0 Internacional, Nacional 2-0 Fluminense.

(Photo credits; (1) Ivan Storti, (2) Ivan Franco, (3) Paulo Sergio.)


  1. 1)LOL at Neymar recognizing he's mascarado.

    2)Santa was robbed!!

    3)I disagree with this minimalist 'Muricy is a defensive coach' idea. His Fluminense that had Deco, Conca, Emerson, Fred, and the very attacking-prone side-backs Carlinhos and Mariano showed that he can also organize offensive sides. That's basically my point. I could go on and on, do some research, but that's basically my point, and I'm tired. Haha.

    P.S.: sucked when I noticed - just now - that you've been watching much more games than me.

  2. Yeah I know what you mean with Muricy... his sides aren't ultra defensive, and often have some nice attacking players. But I got the impression (particularly with Flu... I wasn't paying close enough attention during his SP days) that most of his efforts go towards the organisation and protection of the defence... and he just hopes his attackers produce some magic on a counter attack/set piece. Obviously, when those players are Conca/Fred/Emerson (or Neymar/Ganso now), you'll still score a fair few goals, but it doesn't seem to me that he really structures the attacking sector of his sides. Time will tell how he does at Santos though!

    Oh, and I should say... I certainly didn't watch all of these games! (In fact, some internet issues reduced me mainly to melhores momentos this week!)