By Matthew Burgess, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Having suffered elimination from the Copa Libertadores last week on away goals to Universidad de Chile, Flamengo turned their attentions towards defending their Brasileirão title, following consecutive draws in the opening two rounds.
Last Thursday, Flamengo arrived in the Chilean capital knowing that only a victory by a two goal margin would be sufficient to overturn their 3-2 first leg defeat.
And they started well as Vágner Love headed the Rubro-Negro in front in stoppage time at the end of a first half they largely dominated. Their opponents struck what proved to be the crucial goal, however, when the impressive Argentine Walter Montillo beat Bruno from the edge of the area with an exquisite chip on 72 minutes.
Flamengo rallied again, retaking the lead five minutes later when Adriano rifled in their second after a beautiful move with Leo Moura, but they could not find the crucial third, despite a strong penalty appeal right on the final whistle, sending them out of the continent’s most lucrative competition.
It could prove to be the last outing for talismanic striker Adriano in the famous black and red shirt too, after he failed to appear in their first league victory of 2010 against Prudente on Saturday night and has been linked with a move to Italian side Roma.
Flamengo made hard work of the first half squandering a string of chances, but finally made the breakthrough as Vágner Love converted from the penalty spot shortly before the interval.
Three minutes into the second period, Prudente stunned their opponents with a rare attack of their own and Wanderly leveled, slipping the ball past Bruno from close range to silence the home crowd.
Prudente then enjoyed a good spell of pressure only to find goalkeeper Bruno in fine form, and on 86 minutes the Rio side retook the lead again with a fortuitous goal, Juan’s miss-struck cross deceiving everyone including Prudente goalkeeper Marcio.
Two minutes from time, Vagner Love put the result beyond doubt as scored his second penalty of the night after youngster Camacho was brought down just inside the area.
Returning from illness, Fluminense’s star striker Fred started his first match under new coach Muricy Ramalho against Corinthians on Sunday, and was unfortunate to come away with a defeat.
Unable to break through the Corinthians defense after Chicão’s 11th minute free kick had given the home side the lead at the Pacaembu, the visitors were left to rue missed opportunities and some poor referring decisions that controversially saw a goal and a penalty disallowed.
Despite the defeat, Muricy Ramalho remained upbeat with his side’s performance, following a run of form which has seen Fluminense take just one win from five, but he too must fight to keep his number one striker, following interest from Napoli.
“We have improved in every area, the supporters can be certain that we will not repeat (the poor performances) of last year – we are improving”.
A busy week at the São Januário stadium saw Vasco da Gama unexpectedly replace temporary coach Gaúcho with Celso Roth. Roth, who steered Atlético Mineiro towards the top of Serie A last year, takes over for a second spell after a brief stint at the club in 2007.
Despite his presence Vasco’s poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat at Avaí which leaves the Gigante do Colinha nineteenth in the table with just one point from three games.
Meanwhile Botafogo moved up to third in the table as they continued their fine run of form with a 3-0 victory over Goiás. Lúcio Flávio’s freekick and Somalia’s close range finish gave Botafogo a comfortable lead at half time, before Herrera capped off a fine move to add their third. The manner of the victory was marred as team-mates Caio and Herrera clashed in front in of the referee, however, both players receiving a straight red card and leaving coach Santana with selection trouble for the next round.
A busy week of action lies ahead in the Brasileirão with midweek games on Wednesday and Thursday. Fluminense meet Flamengo in the biggest game of the round on Wednesday, whilst Botafogo face Cruzeiro in Belo Horizonte. Vasco then host Internacional on the following night.