By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – This years Brasileirão sees three Carioca teams vying for the championship, with Fluminense the lone winner from last weekend. The precious late win over local rivals Botafogo takes them up to 7th place in the table.
For their part, Botafogo must find their first win of the campaign and currently languish in the bottom three with pressure building on coach Ney Franco and his players.
Flamengo received a sound lesson in the Sport Recife match, conceding four goals in ten minutes. They are currently in 11th place.
The Fluminense 1-0 win against Botafogo was low on quality but high on drama, rewarding the crowd of 13,000 supporters at the Maracana Stadium on Sunday night. The first ‘classico’ of the season may not have entirely lived up to its name, but Fluminense certainly won’t be losing any sleep over the style of their victory, concentrating instead on a rare win over long-time rivals.
With striker Leandro Amaral back on the subs bench after a lengthy injury, the team received a major boost in manpower with goals difficult to come by. Botafogo will need better support for their star striker Victor Simoes if they are to improve on their current performance of three goals in five outings.
Fluminense settled into the game quickly with solid ball possession, but it was their opponents who threatened first and goalkeeper Ricardo Berna was kept busy with Botafogo’s goal attempts. Both Conca and Thiago Neves were unusually subdued for the Tricolor, and without their usual creativity there were few clear cut chances to score.
Botafogo’s Tony came close within a minute of the restart, sending a left foot shot just beyond Berna’s far post, and shortly after Thiago Neves took too long to get his shot away in a one-on-one against keeper Renan. With both teams restricted to long shots, it looked like the game would finish goalless even after the arrival of Fluminense’s Amaral to the front line alongside Fred (Frederico Chaves Guedes).
With their first choice attack in place for the first time this season, Fluminense finally got a break when the substitute chipped the ball over the defense to Fred, who first lobbed the ball over the advancing Renan in goal and then headed it into the empty net to seal the late win.
The Sport 4-2 win against Flamengo saw a remarkable first half in Recife in which the home team went two goals down within minutes of the kick off before turning the tables on their opponents with a ten-minute goal burst that guaranteed them an unlikely victory.
Recife Sport striker Santos de Andrades Weldon was the hero of the day with a swift hat-trick the likes of which last week’s hero for Flamengo Adriano could only watch with awe as he was restricted to a couple of half chances throughout the match.
Sport were still half asleep early on, giving the ball away easily and allowing Marcio Emerson to latch onto a through ball with six minutes gone to open the scoring. He scored two goals in four minutes when he smashed the ball home from six yards out after a short corner and the game looked over before it had begun.
Indeed Emerson would have gotten himself a hat trick moments later if it weren’t for a good save from Magrao, and Sport brought down the goal deficit on 25 minutes with a Durval header from a free kick. Cue the ‘Weldon show’. A dreadful defensive error allowed him to steal in on 27 minutes to equalize, and from another free kick 3 minutes later he stole in at the far post to give Sport the lead.
On 34 minutes he sent the fans wild with a sure left footed half volley for a remarkable seven-minute hat trick. The second half was considerably less animated, only lit up by a stunning Sandro Goiano strike from well inside his own half having spotted Bruno off his line, but the goalkeeper made up for his poor positioning with an athletic fingertip save.
The sixth round next weekend will see Botafogo host 4th placed Santos at The Engenhao on Saturday, while Fluminense take on Gremio at The Maracana on Sunday afternoon and Flamengo travel to play Coritiba.