By Jayme Monsanto, Senior Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Round seven of the Taça Guanabara (Guanabara Cup) came to an end without any big surprises at the weekend; Rio’s big four Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama all advanced to the state competition’s semifinals.
On Sunday, Flamengo consolidated itself at the top of Group A after beating Boavista 2-1 at the Raulino de Oliveira Stadium, in Volta Redonda.
The national champions rested some key players such as Adriano and Vagner Love as a precaution after both sustained mild injuries during the week and with the semifinals berth already in Flamengo’s hands, coach Andrade was afforded room to experiment with his squad players. Even with the weakened line up Flamengo won, with midfielder Kleberson and striker Bruno Mezenga grabbing the goals.
Fluminense also had secured enough points to guarantee a spot in the semifinals before round seven, and followed suit with another less than full strength side, with the young players keen to make an impression as coach Cuca plans his strategy for the rest of the year. Their result, however, wasn’t quite as promising as Flamengo’s, and the match ended 0-0 against local Olaria.
In Group B, Vasco had recorded six victories in six matches and their leadership in Group B was already beyond doubt. Captain Carlos Alberto and Marcos Careca were injured, but Vasco didn’t spare any more of their regular players in a bid to maintain their formidable winning streak. The 2-2 result was, therefore, something of a disappointment against Madureira at the São Januário Stadium, though goals by Nilton and Thiago Martinelli at least gave the crowd something to cheer about.
Of the four big teams in Rio Botafogo was the only one under any threat of not advancing to the semis. Needing a win in order to finish the round in second place of Group B, they did so in fine style. Resende were despatched 5-2, with three headed goals by new striker “El Loco” Abreu.
In the semifinals, the first place from Group A plays against the second in Group B, while the second in Group A faces the first in Group B, meaning that Flamengo meets Botafogo while Fluminense plays Vasco.
The latter match-up will take place first on Saturday, February 13th at the Maracanã Stadium, at 5PM. Flamengo plays Botafogo on Ash Wednesday, February 17th, also at the Maracanã Stadium with the match scheduled to begin at 9:50PM.
The winners advance to the Taça Guanabara finals, which are scheduled to take place on February 21st, at the Maracanã Stadium.