by Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Corinthians edged past Flamengo 1-0 on Sunday afternoon to win the contest between the country’s two most famous and well supported clubs. The São Paulo outfit exacted sweet revenge after Flamengo knocked them out of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League, earlier in the year, and the win keeps the pressure on their opponent’s big rival.
Fluminense, buoyed by the news that Portuguese international midfielder Deco will join the squad having been released from his Chelsea contract, returned from Porto Alegre with their one point advantage intact after a hard-fought win against Gremio. Indeed It proved a successful round for the smaller Carioca clubs, as Botafogo and Vasco also recorded victories.
Botafogo 3-0 Atletico-MG
Botafogo cruised past a listless Atlético-MG side on Saturday evening in the Engenhão Stadium to ensure back-to-back wins. Goals from the excellent Maicosuel, Somalia and Herrera gave the Rio club the points in a match where their opposition presented little threat throughout. The hosts were two up after forty minutes, and in fact wasted several chances in the second half to turn the game into a rout.
Corinthians 1-0 Flamengo
Flamengo drew their third blank in a row as they sank to title-chasing Corinthians in the Pacaembu Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Corinthians were intent on keeping on the heels of league leaders Fluminense, and were the stronger side in the first half, playing neat possession football while the visitors chased shadows. The pressure paid off in the 38th minute when midfielder Elias won a tussle with opposite number Jean and struck his shot powerfully past Marcelo Lomba in the Flamengo goal. Mengão came out stronger in the second half, but Corinthians, who remain well organized under new coach Aldido Batista, defended valiantly and clung on for three points.
Gremio 1-2 Fluminense
Playing at the same time in Porto Alegre, Fluminense knew they had to win to stay ahead of the chasing pack, and they maintained their slim advantage with a gritty 2-1 away win. Two goals in two minutes early in the first half put the Tricolor in control, as full back Mariano and then striker Emerson Sheik struck in the 16th and 18th minutes. Dario Conca was once again the conductor of a fine Fluminense footballing orchestra as he laid on a precise pass for Emerson, who rounded Gremio keeper Marcelo Grohe and rolled the ball into the empty net.
The visitors remained in control until the hour mark, when midfielder Fernando Bob was sent off for a second bookable offense and Gremio, who for the most part had looked disorganized after the shock of going two goals down, steeled themselves and began to attack. Andre Lima scored in the 88th minute with a well taken volley having earlier blazed over the bar from two yards out, but it was too little too late as Fluminense held on to win.
Vasco 1-0 Vitoria
Vasco remain undefeated after the World Cup break despite a mixed display in São Januario Stadium, excelling in the first half by taking the game to their opponents in ruthless fashion as they created a number of clear-cut opportunities. The goal their football merited came in the 22nd minute, as Zé Roberto, having received a long pass from Fagner, made his way into the area and struck a sweet shot into the right hand corner. However, Vasco were made to work for the points in the second half after having Carlos Alberto sent off. But their recent good form did not desert them, and they now join defending champions Flamengo on 17 points, sitting comfortably in mid table.