By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – After a great effort, the Flamengo directors managed, against all odds, to get the players’ delayed salaries to their bank accounts just before the important match against Vasco da Gama, Flamengo’s greatest rival, on last Sunday, March 22. This, and the fact that the last time Flamengo was beaten by Vasco was over two years ago, raised expectations from the Flamengo fans.
In spite of all that, the team was beaten 2-0 by its arch rival, in a polemic game that had as referee Luís Antônio Silva dos Santos, known as Índio, famous for showing a lot of penalty cards whenever he works. This referee sent off five players during the match, three from Vasco and two from Flamengo, and after Flamengo’s coach, Cuca, questioned his decisions, he was expelled from the match as well.
The Flamengo fans were badly disappointed by the result, which took Flamengo to it’s group’s third position (in Campeonato Carioca only the first two from each group qualify for the semi-finals). This led the team to a complicated week off the field. Some fans questioned if coach Cuca should remain in charge, but the players and directors supported him and it was assured he would remain in the position.
On Wednesday, Flamengo would have what some called its “last chance” in a match against Madureira, a team based in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. The match happened at Edson Passos stadium, and Flamengo was under a lot of pressure, not able to count on their fan’s support. If they lost the match, the situation would be critical.
Despite of the tense mood, the team achieved a 4-2 victory with an amazing performance by striker Josiel, who scored three goals in the first half. Juan scored the fourth Flamengo goal, while Alex Alves and Bruno were responsible for the two Madureira goals.
The victory got the team back to the second position in the competition, and set a lighter mood in Gávea (where the Carioca team is based). The team was more confident, and the next challenge would be against Resende, the team who eliminated Flamengo from the semifinals of the Taça Guanabara championship.
The showdown between Flamengo and Resende happened at 4PM on Saturday, at Engenhão stadium, and once again Josiel played a decisive role, scoring two of the carioca team’s four goals on the convincing 4-0 victory (the other goals were scored by Zé Roberto and Kleberson). With these two goals, Josiel is now the championship’s top goal scorer alongside Bruno Meneghel, Vasco striker. Flamengo dominated the whole match and with the victory, the team is back at the first position of the championship.
The crisis seems to be fading away, but the Flamengo supporters will only relax if the Carioca team achieves another good result next Tuesday, when at 7:30PM, Flamengo will face Americano, for the seventh round of Taça Rio at Godofredo Cruz stadium in Campos, a city located in northern Rio de Janeiro.