By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Neither Flamengo nor Fluminense managed to pick up three points last night as the 24th round of the Campeonato Brasileiro got underway. Fla conceded a late equalizer at São Paulo, whilst Flu were held at home by Grêmio.
A last gasp strike from Luís Fabiano earned São Paulo a 2-2 draw against Flamengo at the Morumbi. The drama stretched beyond the final whistle as Flamengo players surrounded the referee to complain vociferously about the two penalties he had awarded the hosts, the second of which was frankly ludicrous.
It was the Rubro-Negro’s third consecutive draw in the Brasileirão and the team remain tenth, safe from the threat of relegation that hung over the club previously. São Paulo, meanwhile, have fallen further behind league leaders Cruzeiro, who defeated Coritiba, and now sit nine points off the top of the table in third, behind Internacional, who comprehensively beat Criciúma yesterday evening.
São Paulo started the game on the front foot and were awarded a penalty after sixteen minutes when striker Alexandre Pato was fouled by Márcio Araújo inside the area. Rogério Ceni converted the spot kick to put the hosts ahead.
But the Paulista captain was to blame for Flamengo’s equaiser on 35 minutes. The stopper spilled Gabriel’s weak shot and Everton tucked home the rebound to send the sides in level at the break.
After a relatively quiet first 45 minutes, the controversy started just two minutes into the second half. Referee Andre Luiz de Freitas awarded São Paulo a second penalty for an alleged handball, which no one else had managed to spot.
Yet the offense, involving Samir, was involuntary, the ball spinning up off the turf and glancing his hand. In addition, the contact was outside the area. Fortunately for Fla, Paulo Victor made the save from Ceni’s kick, whose night was going from bad to worse.
The missed penalty seemed to throw the hosts off their game, and their night was made more difficult when Michel Bastos was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Fla playmaker Everton with seventeen minutes to go. Flamengo started to increase the pressure, sensing they could snatch victory.
On 87 minutes, Alecsandro headed Mengão in front from a corner. But a defensive lapse meant they failed to close the game out, and Fabiano struck at the death to snatch a point for São Paulo.
Meanwhile, Fluminense could only muster a goalless draw against Grêmio at the Maracanã. Marcelo Grohe made a string of saves for the visitors, whilst Nense were saved twice by the woodwork.
Grêmio walked away from Rio with a point and a place in the G-4. Fluminense are in sixth, three points off a place in the top four.