By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – It was business as usual for three of Rio’s big clubs in the opening two rounds of the 2011 Campeonato Carioca. Flamengo, Fluminense and Botafogo all managed 100 percent winning records against second-rate opposition, while Vasco slipped to two straight defeats, putting their ability to qualify for the knock-out stages in doubt.
On Wednesday night, goals from Vander and Wanderley earned Flamengo a comfortable victory over Volta Redonda. There was no Ronaldinho in the starting line up due to the fact that he’s stepping up his training program to try and regain match fitness after the winter break in Italy.
For Volta Redonda, games against the traditional ‘Big Four’ are the highlight of the year. The minnows started impressively, attacking Flamengo and keeping them camped inside their own half of the field, but when Vander gave the Rubro Negro the lead just before half-time after some neat build up play, their resistance wilted in the second half.
Flamengo recorded their second victory without difficulty on Saturday against America-RJ. Goals from Renato Abreu, David and Deivid put them three up before the hour mark, and despite America scoring a consolation goal, Flamengo’s superiority was never in doubt.
Beginning their campaign on Thursday, Botafogo narrowly overcame Dugue de Caxias 2-1 with goals from Loco Abreu and Caio. After falling behind in the first half, it took until the 76th minute for Fogão to summon an equalizer from the penalty spot. There was no such rustiness on Sunday night as Botafogo bagged five in a thrashing of Cabofriense in an inspired display. Santana’s side showed they have the talent to be crowned Carioca champions for a second year running.
It was an unfortunate night’s work for Cabo’s defender Goeber, who set his team on their way by scoring two own goals, before Renato Caja, Caio and Antonio Carlos put the icing on the cake.
Fluminense also kicked off their campaign in underwhelming fashion, beating Bangu 1-0 in the Engenhão with a goal from a fully-fit Fred. In an emotional game, Washington entered the field at half time to say goodbye to the Tricolores. Having announced his retirement from football last week, Flu fans shouted his name as he waved goodbye to them from the field.
With tears in his eyes, the veteran striker was presented with two plaques in his honor, while wearing a shirt that bore the slogan “Braveheart and Tricolor. Thank you.” On Sunday, Fluminense put six past Olaria to crush their visitors 6-2. Fred, Marquinho and Rodriguinho all bagged braces as Flu romped to victory to share leadership at the top of Group B with Botafogo.
And finally, Vasco got off to a worryingly slow start in this year’s tournament, losing both of their opening games. They missed a host of chances on Wednesday evening against Resende, and were made to pay for their carefree performance when Alexandro got ahead of Douglas to head the game’s only goal four minutes from time.
Things went from bad to worse against Nova Iguacu where Vasco found themselves two down within twenty minutes, courtesy of goals from Alex Morais and Maycon. They came back strongly in the second half, leveling the game up at 2-2, before Vasco hearts were broken again in the 77th minute, when Willian stole in to snatch the game for the hosts.