By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Fellype Gabriel put on a hat-trick for Botafogo as they comfortably saw off Vasco 3-1 on Sunday night, in the fourth round of the Taça Rio at the Engenhão. Stepping into the boots of club idol Loco Abreu, who dropped out with muscle pains, Gabriel grabbed his chance to give the Botafogo the three points.
Fogão goalkeeper Jefferson also deserves his share of the plaudits as he kept out Juninho’s penalty kick. Vasco had put out a mixed side as they maintain focus on the Copa Libertadores; they play Club Libertad at São Januário tonight (Wednesday. 21th of March).
The result means Botafogo remains in second place in Group A, with ten points from four games and are in the qualification zone for the semi-finals. And despite the loss, Vasco are still top of Group B, with seven points.
Botafogo controlled possession in the opening encounters but failed to create any clear goalscoring opportunities. And it looked as if the Alvinegro may be forced to rue wasted chances as Vasco crept into contention.
But Vasco were themselves lacking a genuine goal threat as number nine Alecsandro had been rested for the Libertad clash. Eder Luis and Diego Souza formed the offensive partnership, both failing to convert crosses in the opening twenty minutes.
Without Loco Abreu as the focal point of the side, it was left to Antônio Carlos to lead the aerial assault. And the defender came close to opening the scoring when he powered Andrezinho’s cross at goal.
Diego Souza continued to be a thorn in the Fogo defense as he tried to single handedly take the game to them. But Elkeson was matching him all the way, and his mazy run which eluded three defenders brought wild applause from the Botafogo fans inside the stadium.
And it was from an Elkeson cross that Fellype Gabriel opened the scoring on 33 minutes. Soon afterwards, the same pair combined to double the lead.
Vasco tried to react but when Allan fell easily inside the penalty area under a challenge from Fábio Ferreira the attacking midfielder almost came to blows with Antônio Carlos. The referee booked him for simulation.
In the second half, Jefferson and Fellype Gabriel secured the Botafogo celebrations, but only after Vasco had given them a fright with Fellipe Bastos scoring a wonderful free-kick. Botafogo coach Oswaldo de Oliveira responded by bringing on Jóbson, whose movement gave the side another dimension in attack.
Vasco continued to threaten, but Diego Souza wasted another chance, heading wide. Signs of nerves began to appear throughout the Botafogo side, but Fellype Gabriel put them all to rest, slotting home after a mix up between Fernando Prass and Rodolfo.
Just minutes later, Jefferson beat away Juninho’s penalty after Marcio Azevedo had felled Fagner in the box. Vasco continued to fight, but to little effect as Botafogo played keep ball to wrap up a significant victory.
Taça Rio Round Four Results:
Olaria 0x2 Volta Redonda
Madureira 0x1 Bangu
Fluminense 1×3 Macaé
Bonsucesso 2×1 Americano
Friburguense 0x1 Flamengo
Duque de Caxias 1×1 Resende
Boavista 1×2 Nova Iguaçu
Botafogo 3×1 Vasco