By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Flamengo and Fluminense stayed in touch with the leaders of the Brasileirão pack after vital victories in Round 27. Fluminense defeated Santos with the last kick of the game before Flamengo took all three points against São Paulo.
Elsewhere, top-ranked Vasco and Corinthians could not be separated and Botafogo’s away form slipped once again as they lost to Atletico-GO.
On Saturday, Fluminense came from behind to beat Santos 3-2 with a goal in the dying seconds. Flu fans are beginning to believe the team has a genuine chance of defending their 2010 crown. They presently lie just six points off Vasco at the front of the pack.
For the first fifteen minutes Fluminense were awful as Neymar danced rings around their defense, setting up wasted chances for Elano and Borges. Nense came into the game slowly and on 27 minutes Marquinho missed an incredible opportunity, blazing over from close range. His profligacy was to be punished when Neymar put Santos ahead.
But Marquinho made up for his earlier miss with the equalizer following Fred’s through ball. And after the break, Deco’s entrance allowed Flu to assert sustained pressure.
Rafael Sobis shot them into the lead with a screamer on 84 minutes, and there was more drama to come as referee Evandro Rogerio Roman controversially showed a straight red card to Tricolor defender Digão for a high boot. Rentena drew Santos level from long range but in the fifth minute of injury-time Marco Rosario headed the winner to raise the roof.
Flamengo made it four games unbeaten after a 2-1 victory away to title challengers São Paulo. After a largely forgettable first half, the match exploded into life in the second with three goals and two red cards.
São Paulo were reduced to ten men when Lucas received a second yellow card and Flamengo made them pay dearly on 64 minutes as Thiago Neves headed in Junior Cesar’s cross. The numbers were evened up on the field after Willians also received marching orders.
Then it was São Paulo’s turn to take advantage; Dagoberto equalized with a stunning rising drive from outside the box. A draw looked likely until Flamengo snatched victory with Renato’s deflected low shot in the final minutes.
In the battle between the top two, Vasco twice surrendered the lead to draw 2-2 with Corinthians at São Januario Stadium in Rio’s Zona Norte. Dede headed Vasco into the lead after a quarter of an hour only to see Alex cancel out his effort following a rapid counter.
As the half wore on, the visitors slowly began to control the midfield but were hit by a sucker punch as Vasco retook the lead on the stroke of half-time. Launching a counterattack of their own, Eder Luis found Fagner with a precisely weighted slide-rule pass. The full-back raced away before deftly chipping over the onrushing Julio Cesar.
Vasco looked set for further success but a mistake from Alecsandro gifted Corinthians an equalizer. Willian picked up the striker’s wayward pass before crossing for Danilo to level.
The hosts thought they had won the game late on only for Alecansdro’s effort to be correctly ruled out for offside. The game ended honors even, Vasco maintaining a two point lead at the top of the table.
Finally, Botafogo’s away form failed them again as they lost 2-0 to Atletico-GO. Two goals inside the first ten minutes from Felipe were enough to condemn the Alvinegro, who have won just three games on the road all season and need to strengthen their resolve if they are to continue challenging for the Brasileirão.