Monday, 28 November 2011

Champions! No, Wait! Vasco Late Show Sets Up Dramatic Final Round

The end is nigh, dear reader, but the 2011 Série A season continues to enchant...

Brasileirão Gameweek 37 Round-up
This most dramatic of title races seemed to be over on Sunday. Corinthians players hung around on the pitch at the Orlando Scarpelli, where they had ground out a 1-0 win over Figueirense. They awaited confirmation of the final score in Rio - Vasco, who needed a win to stay in contention, were drawing with Fluminense with just seconds left on the clock. "É CAMPEÃO!" cried the Corinthians fans, who spent much of the second half waving flares, shrouding the pitch in smoke. The Timão's fifth national title, it seemed, was in the bag.

Having been pegged back by a late Flu goal, the Gigante da Colina were at sixes and sevens. As so often in Brazilian football, conspiracy theories were already beginning to surface: Vascaínos - players and fans alike - felt that Fred's strike should have been ruled out for a foul on Renato Silva. The Engenhão terraces (which were full, for once) reverberated with the chant "Está comprado!" ("It's been bought!"). One man, however, kept his head. With the final whistle looming, supersub Bernardo found an unlikely winner, turning home at the second attempt after Diego Cavalieri fumbled his original header. (The involvement of Cavalieri, a former Palmeiras player, will have prompted some bitter smiles/enraged grimaces among Corinthians fans.)

Bernardo's watch: the Vasco striker celebrates his late goal.

The Campeonato Brasileiro, then, will be decided next week. Corinthians only need a draw to seal the title, whilst Vasco must beat Flamengo and hope for a favour from Palmeiras.

At the bottom of the table, a late strike from Daniel Marques rescued a crucial draw for Ceará against relegation rivals Cruzeiro. With Atlético-PR losing to América-MG, any two of the former three teams could find themselves in Série B next term. Cruzeiro sit one point ahead of Ceará and two ahead of the Furacão, but have the toughest fixture: a derby clash with Atlético Mineiro. There are going to be some nervy moments next week.

In Macaé, Flamengo took a giant stride towards Libertadores qualification with a 1-0 win over Internacional. São Paulo and Botafogo, however, who were in the running for the title for so much of the season, may have blown their chances of a place in South America's biggest club competition: they sit eighth and ninth respectively after losses to Palmeiras and Atlético-MG. Coritiba, one of the promoted sides, are sitting pretty in fifth, following a narrow victory over Avaí. Elsewhere, Santos and Grêmio were held by Bahia and Atlético-GO respectively.

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

(Photo credit: Paulo Sérgio.)

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