By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Flamengo dragged themselves out of their recent rut with a well-deserved away win against Santo André on Sunday in the third round of the Serie A Championship, while Fluminense and Botafogo continued to find points hard to come by, and suffered heavy defeats.
It was an important first win for Flamengo, albeit against the newly-promoted minnows from Sao Paulo, and also crucially marked their first two goals in the competition this year.
No such luck for Botafogo, who failed to find their first win of the campaign against an excellent Gremio side which appeared to be back to its fine form of last year.
For the Tricolor of Fluminense the win against defending champions Sao Paulo on the first day of the season was a distant memory, conceding four goals at home despite taking the lead in the first half.
Santo André 1 x 2 Flamengo: After last week’s poor display against another Serie A newcomer Avai, Flamengo’s soft early-season schedule finally paid dividends with an important victory in Sao Paulo to help stave off rumors of crisis at the club. Still without newly signed Adriano in the squad, it was another striker Josiel who stole the show with a goal in the middle of each half. His header after 30 minutes lifted an otherwise subdued opening period, only for poor defending and a vicious drive from Santo André’s Ricardo Conceicao to bring the home side level on the stroke of half time.
The second half was a more intensly contested affair with both sides sensing victory within their reach, but ultimately it was the visitors who took the points. The winning goal typified the game’s end-to-end play as first Ricardo Goulart struck the post for Santo André then Ibson picked up the ball and with one prefect pass unleashed Josiel who chipped over the advancing goalkeeper to make it 1 x 2.
Fluminense 1 x 4 Santos: Mariano got the home team off to a great start at The Maracana with a goal inside the first ten minutes to help dispel the memory of the midweek exit from the Copa do Brasil, but the fans’ celebrations were short lived. As the half wore on so the spectacle dipped, and with both sides struggling to create opportunities some poor Fluminense defending led to a Santos free-kick just outside the penalty area which Molina drilled beyond the despairing Fernando Henrique to level the scores at the interval.
More dreadful defending just after the break allowed the speedy winger Madson to steal in unchallenged and slip the ball home to give the visitors the lead. From there they never looked like letting it go. The home side were reduced to ten men when Dieguinho was sent off for a second yellow card, and he was followed by Ratinho moments after Santos had grabbed a third goal through Kleber Perreira. Last season’s goal machine then got his second two minutes later to seal a forgettable Sunday afternoon for nine-man Fluminense.
Gremio 2 x 0 Botafogo: Botafogo dropped into the bottom four in the league following defeat in Porto Alegre on Sunday. Under new coach Paulo Autori Gremio grabbed a first win of the season and left their opponents still desperate for their own and looking desperately short on confidence. The goalless first half was largely devoid of memorable moments as Botafogo simply could not get the ball through to their forwards, only managing their first meaningful shot on goal from a Juninho free kick late on.
Their stronger start to the second half was undone by a clever goal from Jonas twelve minutes in, who directed a 15 yard toe poke into the bottom corner beyond the diving Castillo in goal. From their Gremio seized control of the game and Botafogo never really looked like getting back in it, with a glut of wayward passing preventing them from finding an equalizer.
The fourth round next weekend will see Botafogo entertain fellow strugglers Sport at the Engenhao on Saturday, while on Sunday Fluminense travel to Pernambuco to play second-placed Nautico, and Flamengo take on Atletico-PR of Parana at the Maracana.