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By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Flamengo will face Fluminense in the semi-finals of the 2011 Taça Rio. Flamengo drew their final group game and Fluminense narrowly defeated Nova Iguacu to set up a clash to whet the appetites of both sets of supporters. There was bad news for Botafogo supporters after Olaria managed a draw with Vasco to send the 2010 champions out early. Vasco will meet Olaria again in the other semi.

After months of inconsistency, Fred and Conca are again playing the kind of football that can help Fluminense defend their national crown, photo by Agencia Photocamera.

Fred scored his first goal in five games to give Fluminense a 1-0 win at the Engenhao on Sunday. The result puts the team in good stead for their crucial Copa Libertaodres game against Argentinos Juniors Wednesday.

The only goal came from the penalty spot in the 27th minute, scored by Fred. After a gritty first half, Fluminense began to find their rhythm after half-time. Conca and Fred combined beautifully and the number 9 had a second goal ruled out early after the restart. Fluminense realized their first objective of the week; Wednesday’s test will be far more stringent.

Against Macaé, Ronaldinho missed a penalty for Flamengo and spurned the opportunity to send them into the semis as group winners. With qualification already secured, the Rubro Negro could have made life far more comfortable for themselves by winning the group and playing against Olaria rather than their great rivals.

Despite missing the last minute penalty, Ronaldinho had a good game. His movement was inventive, as was his passing to create chances for teammates. It was from a Ronaldinho corner that Flamengo took the lead, Jean heading in.

With nothing to lose, Macaé stepped up the pressure and were rewarded after 78 minutes. Robson’s powerful long range strike could only be parried by Felipe and Hyantony was on hand to tap home. The big drama occurred two minutes into injury time when Marcos fouled Diego Mauricio. Ronaldinho stepped up but could not beat goalkeeper Everton.

Vasco star Bernardo is tipped to enjoy a successful 2011, photo from Vasco Imagem.

In a dramatic encounter, Vasco fought from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Olaria to make it seven games unbeaten.

Vasco were far from their best and old problems began to show as a lack of precision in front of goal cost them dearly. Vasco fell behind after seventeen minutes when Waldir was given far too much space to dribble and shoot into the far corner.

Olaria remained organized throughout and rarely gave Vasco a sniff for the remainder of the first half. They doubled their lead in the 50th minute when Felipe Silva stole in behind the Vasco defence to steer in a right wing cross.

Seeing his side create little, Ricardo Gomes sent on Bernardo who scored almost immediately with a penalty. The youngster has had an excellent tournament and will be one of the players to watch in the Campeonato Brasileiro. Combining with Eder Luis, Bernardo dragged Vasco back into the contest and a minute into stoppage time they got their reward when Romulo headed a last gasp equalizer.

Finally, there was heartbreak for Botafogo fans as they saw their side crash out on Sunday. Despite overcoming America 3-1, with a brace from Lucas, the draw between Olaria and Vasco saw them miss out on the semi-finals by a point.

Semi-Final Draw:
Saturday, April 23rd: Vasco v Olaria, 6.30PM at Engenhao
Sunday, April 24th: Fluminense v Flamengo, 4PM at Engenhao

2011 Taça Rio ranking, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sports News
2011 Taça Rio ranking.
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