Monday, 15 August 2011

Vasco Close Gap as Leaders Stutter; Brazil U20s Reach World Cup Semi-Final

Série A went goal crazy this weekend, in a (probably doomed) attempt to draw attention away from the big kick-off in Europe; 34 strikes rattled in around Brazil, many of them absolute crackers. With Corinthians, Flamengo, and São Paulo all failing to win, Vasco da Gama closed the gap at the top with a narrow victory over Palmeiras. Further down the table, there were convincing wins for Coritiba and Cruzeiro, but Santos fell to yet another loss. Brazil were also in action in the U20 World Cup, sneaking past Spain to reach the semi-finals.

Brasileirão Gameweek 16 Round-up
The ruthlessness that characterised Corinthians' start to the season has dissipated at astounding speed over the past few weeks. The Timão's crumbling defence was again at fault on Sunday, as Ceará twice came from behind to rescue a point at the Pacaembu; a lack of communication between Chicão and Leandro Castán allowed Osvaldo to cancel out Paulinho's opener, whilst Rudnei scrambled home a late equaliser amidst some lacklustre marking. The scoreline was harsh on Corinthians playmaker Alex, whose 25-yard piledriver was worthy of winning any match. Flamengo also contrived to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory; a brace from Deivid put them in control against Figueirense, only for Somália and Edson Silva to level things up in Florianópolis.

Listen up; Somália initiated Figueirense's fightback.

With glorious (three-way?) symmetry, third-placed São Paulo also drew 2-2; the Tricolor were held by the fast-improving Atlético Paranaense. In truth, Adílson Batista's side were slightly lucky to come away with a point; they needed a wondergoal from Ilsinho (who, incidentally, looks set to depart the club this week) and a last minute intervention from Rivaldo's crotch (true story) to gain parity. Those three results gave Vasco the chance to make up some ground on the leaders, an opportunity they gleefully accepted with a 1-0 win over Palmeiras. Young midfielder Bernardo has obviously been getting dead ball tips from Juninho Pernambucano; his impeccable free-kick would have graced even O Reizinho's highlights reel.

Joel Santana's inconsistent Cruzeiro outfit let off some steam on Saturday, thrashing Avaí 5-0 at the Parque do Sabiá. Argentine playmaker Walter Montillo was again at the heart of everything for the Raposa; he scored a penalty, missed another, and picked up two assists. Quicksilver striker Thiago Ribeiro, meanwhile, netted what is likely to be his last goal in royal blue; a move to Italian side Cagliari looks imminent. Cruzeiro are now level on points with Fluminense, who succumbed to Grêmio on Sunday night. A brace from journeyman midfielder Marquinhos ensured that Celso Roth's stewardship of the Porto Alegre side got off to a good start.

Foxtrot; Cruzeiro's Paraguayan forward José Ortigoza (right) protects the ball.

The post-Libertadores slump that has befallen Santos continued in full effect this week; the seasiders went down to Atlético-GO at the Serra Dourada. After soaking up pressure in the first half, the Dragão took advantage of some laughable Santos defending to bag two late goals and all three points. The loss leaves Muricy Ramalho's charges down in 16th position, only just above the hapless Atlético Mineiro. The Galo, whose permanent revolving door has been spinning even more frantically than usual of late, were well beaten by Coritiba on Sunday.

Botafogo's excellent recent form seemed to be coming to an abrupt end on Saturday; they found themselves two down to bottom club América Mineiro with just ten minutes on the clock. Caio Júnior's side produced a rousing comeback, however, to come away with a 4-2 victory. The pick of the goals came from Elkeson, who thumped an effort home via the underside of the crossbar. The win lifts O Glorioso up to fifth place. Internacional, meanwhile, who have finally appointed Dorival Júnior as permanent coach, could only manage a 1-1 draw with Bahia. The Colorado still have plenty of improving to do.

U20 World Cup Round-up
Brazil faced their stiffest challenge of the competition so far on Sunday night; the seleção came up against much-fancied Spain at the quarter-final stage. After 120 minutes of deadlock, Ney Franco's side would progress following a dramatic penalty shootout. In a nervy first half, it was Brazil who did enough to get their noses in front; Willian José tapped home from close range after Henrique's effort had clattered off the crossbar. Rodrigo's second half header, however, sent the match into extra time.

Brazil super sub Dudu celebrates his goal against Spain.

With both sides tiring, the seleção gained the lead for the second time; Dudu - Brazil's super sub in Colombia - swapped passes with Henrique before slotting joyously past Fernando Pacheco. Spain, though, reacted in style once more; Álvaro Vásquez turned home from Carles Planas' accurate cross. Cruzeiro goalkeeper Gabriel would turn out to be Brazil's penalty hero; he made two fine saves to dump Spain out of the tournament. Brazil now face Mexico, hoping to secure safe passage to Saturday's final.

Results. Série A; São Paulo 2-2 Atlético-PR, Cruzeiro 5-0 Avaí, Atlético-GO 2-0 Santos, Botafogo 4-2 América-MG, Corinthians 2-2 Ceará, Vasco 1-0 Palmeiras, Figueirense 2-2 Flamengo, Coritiba 3-0 Atlético-MG, Grêmio 2-1 Fluminense, Bahia 1-1 Internacional. U20 World Cup; Brazil 2-2 Spain (4-2 on penalties).

(Photo credits; (1) Cristiano Andujar, (2) Célio Messias, (3) Getty.)

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