By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Paulo Victor, the Flamengo goalkeeper in Sunday’s classico (games including Rio’s big four teams), put in an impeccable performance as his team beat a mixed Fluminense side 2-0 at the Engenhão Stadium. Also in the match Ronaldinho Gaúcho got his first goal in a Carioca classico, from the penalty spot, and was dismissed for two yellow cards all in the first half.
Fluminense enjoyed 79 percent ball possession, threatened the Fla goal on more occasions and had a one man advantage but couldn’t make any of it pay dividends as Victor resembled an immoveable object blocking their path.
Kléberson got Flamengo’s second to move his side onto six points in the Taça Rio. But they remain in fourth place in Group A and outside the qualification places for the semi-finals. With four points, Fluminense lie in third in Group B.
As the whistle blew for the end of the first half, it was difficult to believe Flu were trailing by two goals. Led by Souza, who had his best performance since arriving at Laranjeiras last year, Fluminense continued to create and waste chances, mainly thanks to the excellence of Paulo Victor.
“I prepared myself the entire week to do the best I could. Thank God I managed to help the team to an important victory,” Victor said as he left the field at the end of the game.
Indeed, Flamengo had barely registered an attempt on goal when they were handed a gift-wrapped offering. Tricolor left-back Thiago Carleto clumsily slid in on Galhardo, tripping him inside the box.
Ronaldinho made it 1-0 from the resulting spot-kick. Fluminense were still trying to come to terms with the fact they were behind when their task doubled.
On 25 minutes, Magal sent in a deep cross from the left touchline. Anderson could only feebly head the ball into the path of Kléberson, who smashed a right foot shot convincingly past Cavalieri.
There was yet more drama as Ronaldinho, who had received a questionable yellow card in the opening minutes, received a second for a horrendous challenge on Wágner in the middle of the pitch.
Referee Eduardo Guimarães could easily have given a straight red for the tackle, as the Fla number ten went straight over the top of the ball, bringing his studs down on his opponent’s ankle.
With a one man advantage Flu raised the game, only to be thwarted yet again by Paulo Victor. The keeper made an incredible save from Souza just before the break when it seemed a Tricolor reply was inevitable.
At half-time, Flu coach took off the anonymous Rafael Sóbis, replacing him with youngster Samuel. Joel Santana reorganized his midfield, and in the second half the Rubro-Negro nullified Flu’s threat far more effectively.
Not finding a way through, Flu began to take pot shots from range and sending deep crosses into the middle. But, as he had been throughout the ninety minutes, Paulo Victor stood tall against everything thrown at him. He left the field to a standing ovation from the Flamengo fans on the terraces.
2012 Taça Rio – round three results:
Bangu 1×1 Botafogo
Resende 2×0 Boavista
Nova Iguaçu 0x1 Duque de Caxias
Americano 2×2 Olaria
Macaé 3×1 Friburguense
Vasco 3×0 Madureira
Volta Redonda 2×1 Bonsucesso
Flamengo 2×0 Fluminense