By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – Botafogo showed they have what it takes to challenge Fluminense and Corinthians for the 2010 Brasilerão with two excellent victories over Santos and São Paulo last week. The top two both slipped up at the weekend, leaving the door open for others to join the title race.

Atlético-GO celebrate their last minute winner against Fluminense on Saturday, photo by Agencia Photocamera.

Vasco will be disappointed to have only drawn against lowly Atlético-MG on Thursday night, and that much-needed win still evades defending champions Flamengo, as they picked up a solitary point over two rounds.

ROUND XX

Fluminense 3-1 Ceará
Fluminense secured a comfortable victory in their new home, the Engenhão. Only around 5,000 spectators watched on as the Tricolor raced into a three goal lead inside half an hour courtesy of full back Mariano and a brace from veteran striker Washington. The hosts barely got out of second gear after the interval, but despite Ceará pulling a goal back, it was too late to trouble their opponents.

São Paulo 2-0 Flamengo
São Paulo had no difficulty in overcoming a weak Flamengo side, and victory sent their visitors perilously close to the relegation zone. Prior to the game, the talk was all about São Paulo goalkeeper and legend Rogério Ceni, who was celebrating twenty years at the Paulista club. However, after just eight minutes it was his opposite number, Marcelo Lomba, in the spotlight as he raced off his line, only to be sold a dummy by Marlos who put São Paulo a goal up. Things went from bad to worse for the RubroNegro, when striker Diogo was sent off in the 39th minute, before Fernandão headed the second and decisive goal two minutes later.

Santos 0-1 Botafogo
Botafogo snatched victory in the Pacaembu with a goal from Loco Abreu a minute from time. Botafogo were made to fight for the victory, with Keirrison forcing Botafogo keeper Jefferson into a fine save. As the second half wore on, Santos tired, and Herrera shot wide when he should have tested Santos keeper Rafael, but his miss was not to prove too costly, as Abreu converted Edno’s cross to snatch victory.

Vasco 1-1 Atlético-MG
Neither side deserved victory in a stale match and Vasco looked short of inspiration despite taking the lead on 37 minutes when Éder Luis fired in a fine shot from twenty yards. With the defense shaky, goalkeeper Fernando Prass kept their lead in tact with a couple of smart saves from Daniel Carvalho, but parity was restored five minutes from time, when Ricardinho scored from the penalty spot after being tripped by Jonathan.

Kleberson saved Flamengo's bacon with two equalizing goals, photo by AgenciaFla.

ROUND XXI

Atlético-GO 2-1 Fluminense
Fluminense paid the price for sloppy finishing as they conceded a last minute winner, despite their hosts being reduced to ten men. The league leaders scored first, Conca latching onto Deco’s exquisite pass to set up Washington, who slotted home. Seven minutes later, the scores were level as William beat the offside trap to equalize for the hosts. Twice the visitors hit the woodwork through Washington and Gum, before Juninho scored a breakaway winner with almost the last kick of the game.

Flamengo 2-2 Vitória
Flamengo scored two goals in a game for the first time since round three, but still could not come away with victory. Kleberson was twice their savior, equalizing for the hosts after they fell behind to goals from Junior and a stunning angled effort from Schwenck. Kleberson could have secured victory in injury time, but narrowly failed to get on the end of a teasing cross.

Botafogo 2-0 São Paulo
Loco Abreu picked up where he left off against Santos, scoring the first in a close encounter at the Engenhão. As São Paulo pressed in search of an equalizer they left themselves exposed at the back, and Edno made sure of the points ten minutes before the end, firing a low left footed shot into the bottom right hand corner.

Palmeiras 0-0 Vasco
Vasco again played poorly in a game the hosts really should have won easily. Palmerias were by far the stronger side, and the Cariocas merely looked to contain their hosts, who had both Kleber and Ewerthon guilty of missing golden chances to steal the points for the São Paulo club.

Serie A Table after round XXI

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