By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – After the Taça Rio conquest on April 19th, Flamengo proceeded to Campeonato Carioca’s final stage, as did Botafogo when they conquered Taça Guanabara on March 3rd. Campeonato Carioca is the Rio de Janeiro state’s main soccer championship, and its final stage is divided in two matches that occur in two consecutive Sundays (April 26th and May 3rd) – the winner taking the State Championship.
The first match happened last Sunday, and more than 60,000 soccer fans packed the Maracanã stadium to witness the game. Botafogo and Flamengo are the two biggest Carioca teams recently, and this is the third year in a row in which the Campeonato Carioca’s final is a showdown between the two. On both 2007 and 2008 Flamengo won, and now Botafogo is trying to return the favor.
The match started at 4PM, and although the game was very competitive, and both teams were very offensive, Flamengo got the lead first, with a penalty goal by Juan in the twentieth minute. Then before the end of the first half, Botafogo tied the score with a free-kick by Juninho, and turning the tide, Reinaldo scored with a header in last minutes of the first half – ending 2-1 to Botafogo.
In the second half, Botafogo’s strategy was to hold on to the 2-1 score with strong defense. Flamengo came back to the game more offensive, but every effort to breach the rival’s defense proved to be ineffective. Even with two of Botafogo’s most valuable players injured and replaced during the second half, Reinaldo and Maicosuel, the team still resisted to Flamengo’s attacks.
Never giving up, Flamengo kept pressing against Botafogo until the end of the match. When there were only five minutes remaining, and it seemed like Botafogo would leave Maracanã victorious, the score changed. In an unfortunate repeat of the Taça Rio finals, the match was decided by Botafogo’s defender Emerson.
Flamengo’s Willians shot the ball in the goal’s direction, which bounced off the unlucky Botafogo defender, and then entered goalkeeper Renan’s net. Emerson’s last touch once again defined the score, and the match ended 2-2.
Next Sunday (May 3rd) the game starts at 4PM, and one of the two teams will be crowned State Champions in the Maracanã stadium. In case of a draw, there is going to be a penalty shootout.
Flamengo, along with Fluminense, are the biggest winners of state championships in Carioca Soccer’s history. Both teams have eaned 30 championships, and now Flamengo has the chance of achieving the top spot in Carioca soccer. Botafogo has only 17 championships, while Vasco da Gama (the 4th biggest Carioca team) has 22.