Monday, 8 August 2011

Vasco Derailed by Botafogo 'Locomotive'; Fla Go Top Following Corinthians Slip Up

I hope for your sake, dear reader, that you enjoy a good train metaphor. If you don't, I pray that you're at least the kind of person who can find it in their heart to forgive me for the following few paragraphs.

Botafogo 4-0 Vasco da Gama
Vasco - who, conveniently enough, were christened O Trem Bala da Colina ("The Bullet Train of the Hill") in the wake of some enormously repetitive conga-line celebrations earlier this year - have been building up quite a head of steam recently; convincing wins over São Paulo and Santos have helped lift them into the upper echelons of the Brasileirão, inspiring dreams of a glorious league/cup double. With a seemingly impregnable defence (build around recent Brazil call-up Dedé), and a midfield full of guile and experience, Ricardo Gomes' side has won over all doubters in the past few months. When you add the fact that club idols Felipe and Juninho Pernambucano are present in the first team, this has their air of a golden age for the São Januário club.

Botafogo, on the other hand, as so often, seem beset by instability; Caio Júnior has done a reasonable job of filling Joel Santana's sizeable managerial shoes (coming soon to a shop near you), but seems unable to stamp his personality on the club, whilst his side seems able to motivate itself only for the supposed big games. The club's league position (6th at the time of writing) says more about the shortcomings of some of Brazil's other clubs than it does about O Glorioso. Hope, however, springs eternal. Especially when it stems from the kind of derby-day rout that occured on Sunday.

Do the Locomotion! Abreu jumps for joy after scoring against Vasco.

Things started well for Bota; the club's zagueiro artilheiro Antônio Carlos headed home the opener from Renato's corner within ten minutes of kick-off. That would prove to be just the start of an impressive first half salvo. The hosts' second arrived 20 minutes later; enigmatic Uruguayan striker 'Loco' Abreu turned home after Fernando Prass had parried Germán Herrera's initial effort. Abreu pounced once more before the interval, sending both the home faithful and Brazil's headline writers into raptures. All aboard the Locomotive!

The second half brought rather less excitement; the hard-running Herrera wrapped up the win with a powerful strike, whilst Vasco's misery was further compounded by a red card for Diego Souza. He will now sit out next week's tricky clash with Palmeiras. Abreu aside, there were plenty of positives for Botafogo; Sevilla midfielder Renato dictated the pace in the centre of the park, and Elkeson continued to show glimpses of real quality. Perhaps the standout performer, however, was Bruno Cortês, who spent much of the game marauding from his putative position at left back. It was a classy display, particularly from a man who, just a few weeks ago, held his wedding reception in his local branch of Habib's, a chain of Arabic fast food restaurants. True story.

Brasileirão Gameweek 15 Round-up
Corinthians look a shadow of the team that set the early pace in Série A; they needed a penalty from former Spartak Moscow playmaker Alex to rescue a 1-1 draw with the resurgent Atlético Paranaense. That result allowed Flamengo to move to the top of the standings; the Rubro-Negro snuck a 1-0 win over Coritiba thanks to a goal from débutant striker Jael. A brace from Cícero, meanwhile, secured three points for São Paulo against Avaí.

Points win prizes; América-MG striker Alessandro celebrates his goal against Flu.

Convincing wins over Ceará and Inter last week had seemed to announce a turning point in Fluminense's season. Football, however, is rarely so straightforward; the Tricolor were thrashed 3-0 by bottom club América Mineiro on Sunday. With Fred again absent from the squad (his tangles with Flu supporters could even see him leave the club), Abel Braga's men turned in an awful performance at the Arena do Jacaré. The defeat saw them leapfrogged in the table by Figueirense, who overcame Atlético-MG thanks to Elias' double. The Atlético board chose to axe coach Dorival Júnior after that one.

In Porto Alegre, Internacional came from behind to pick up a 3-2 win over Cruzeiro. Leandro Damião scored the pick of the goals at the Beira-Rio, heading powerfully home to seal victory for the Colorado. The consequences of that game could be far-reaching for Cruzeiro; star striker Wallyson fractured a bone in his ankle, and seems likely to miss the remainder of the season. Elsewhere this weekend, there were wins for Bahia and Santos, and Palmeiras played out a goaless draw with Grêmio.

Série A results; Palmeiras 0-0 Grêmio, Flamengo 1-0 Coritiba, Atlético-MG 1-2 Figueirense, Santos 1-0 Ceará, Internacional 3-2 Cruzeiro, Atlético-PR 1-1 Corinthians, América-MG 3-0 Fluminense, Botafogo 4-0 Vasco, Avaí 1-2 São Paulo, Bahia 2-1 Atlético-GO.

(Photo credits; (1) Bruno de Lima, (2) Gil Leonardi.)

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