By Doug Gray, Senior Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – For the three Carioca clubs in the 2009 Brasileirao the season finale could not be more exciting with only two games left.
While two teams fight for their lives at the bottom of the table, Flamengo find themselves on the cusp of a dramatic first league win since 1992, and one that would send the city, indeed much of the country given the side’s immense popularity, into ecstatic spasm.
It was one of those two clubs lower down the table that opened the door for Flamengo to go top this weekend, Botafogo triumphing over league leaders Sao Paulo in an epic encounter at the Engenhao stadium despite having three players sent off. The Rubro-Negro failed to make the most of the opportunity though, and could not do better than a 0 x 0 draw at home to Goias.
The ‘Foguense will be far more concerned, however, with the fact that taking three points from the likely champions prevented themselves being leapfrogged by rivals Fluminense, who’s win over Sport in Recife would have seen them out of the relegation zone at their neighbors’ expense but for the late winner at The Engenhao.
Botafogo 3 x 2 Sao Paulo
It did not take long for the home side to make their intentions clear against the league leaders, and showing a tenacity rarely seen all season in front of support likewise lacking thus far in 2009, several chances came their way before Jobson finally picked up the ball and opened the scoring, firing home an unstoppable shot from the edge of the area. Jefferson was on good form in the home goal but eventually Washington got on the end of a cross late on in the half and made it 1 x 1.
Jorge Wagner gave Sao Paulo the lead early in the second half and the writing looked to be on the wall for Botafogo, but an immediate response by Renato put them back on level terms, and as the game looked destined to end in a draw Jobson stepped up again on 44 minutes with another right-foot bullet to seal a hard-earned win.
Sport 0 x 3 Fluminense
Yet another win for the Tricolor, but yet another week in the bottom four despite being safe in the knowledge that just two more victories – which would make it seven in a row in the league – will be enough to stave off relegation. The Carioca side looked tired after their midweek exertions to reach the final of the Copa Sul Americana and needed an own goal an hour into the game to overcome their nerves. From there on it was plain sailing, the home side losing two players to red cards and first Fred and then Conca – the two shining lights of the side’s recuperation – rounding off what was in the end an easy win.
Flamengo 0 x 0 Goias
Stubborn resistance and some poor finishing served to frustrate Flamengo who desperately sought the win that would have seen them go top for the first time this season. Indeed only some fine saves from keeper Bruno prevented a shock defeat for the home side, whilst at the other end Adriano and Petkovic were kept quiet by a well-organized Goias defense and simply could not find a way past Harlei in goal.
Fluminense now have another tiring midweek excursion in the final of the Copa Sul Americana taking on LDU in Quito ahead of a home game against Vitoria in the penultimate round of the league. Indeed all three teams have must-win games, with Flamengo traveling to Corinthians knowing that defeat could end their title challenge if Sao Paulo win at Goias, and Botafogo traveling to Atletico-PR, both sides on 44 points and hovering precariously above the relegation zone. All games will be played at 5PM on Sunday.