By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – After nineteen rounds of the 2009 Brasileirão, the picture continues to look bleak for Rio’s teams, all three dogged by inconsistency since the outset.
This weekend the poor performances continued, though Botafogo will happily take the point away from league leaders Palmeiras which left them in fifteenth. Sunday saw Flamengo beaten by Grêmio and they have fallen to tenth. Fluminense failed to rise to the challenge of their must-win match, losing to relegation rivals Curitiba to remain one off the bottom in nineteenth place.
Palmeiras 1 x 1 Botafogo
With both teams deprived of several first team regulars due to injury and suspension, what on paper looked like a foregone conclusion unraveled into a more tense affair.
Botafogo were determined to defend in numbers and try and grab a goal on the counter attack, and it paid off when they took the lead midway through the first half. Andre Lima is proving to have been a great signing for the Foguense as he reacted quickly in the penalty area to drive the ball home after the defense failed to clear a free kick.
It could have been two but for a poor refereeing decision to deny Botafogo a penalty minutes later. The Paulistas however remained untroubled. In front of a packed audience they were soon back on level terms courtesy of a Danilo header from another speculative free kick. The second half saw even more chances come and go for both teams, but wasteful finishing and fine goalkeeping kept the score at 1 x 1.
Grêmio 4 x 1 Flamengo
A beautiful Sunday afternoon in Porto Alegre saw Grêmio switch places with league rivals Flamengo after despatching them in consummate fashion. It wasn’t all one-way traffic though, and goalkeeper Victor was called upon several times to deny the marauding Adriano.
It was his opposite number who erred to open the scoring, Bruno allowing a close-range header through his legs with fourteen minutes on the clock. However, Adriano provided a beautiful pass to unlock Grêmio’s defense ten minutes later, and Everton gratefully latched onto the ball to fire home the equalizer.
The second half belonged to the home side, and they were sent on their way by Réver shortly after the restart as his sharp footwork was assisted by more poor goalkeeping from Bruno to let the ball squirm underneath him. The writing was on the wall when Airton was hauled down in the area and Jonas slotted home the resulting penalty, and then with minutes left a second spot kick made it 4 x 1.
Fluminense 1 x 3 Curitiba
Even greater pressure will be on new coach Renato Gaúcho after a poor home display on Sunday afternoon against lowly Curitiba. The Carioca side’s passing was wayward, and within minutes the visitors had created two good chances. The sparsely-filled Maracanã provided a far from intimidating atmosphere and they finally converted through a Marcelinho Paraíba header with just ten minutes played. By half time just one Kieza shot off the post was all that the Tricolor could muster by way of a genuine threat.
Further pain followed in the second half, and poor defending was again to blame. Paraíba went close before eventually waltzing the ball past three defenders and then receiving the ball back off advancing goalkeeper Fernando Henrique’s legs, leaving him to just tap the ball home.
Striker Kieza gave the fans something to cheer at last, pulling one back with a strong run and shot with fifteen minutes left. It looked like the momentum was all Fluminense’s until they were once more undone at the back and Aurélio made it 1 x 3 from close range to seal a crucial win for Curitiba.
The second half of the season gets underway midweek with Botafogo in action on Wednesday at home to newcomers Santo André with a good chance to grab three more points and ease their troubles.
Fluminense’s game the same night will be a more difficult affair as they travel to São Paulo. They have a good record at the Morumbi Stadium over recent seasons though, and will need it again if they are to lessen their chances of relegation. Flamengo play Cruzeiro at The Maracanã on Thursday.