By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Flamengo and Fluminense have work to do if they are to qualify for the semi finals of the 2011 Taça Rio after slipping down the standings. Vasco continue their good form in the tournament after a goalless stalemate with Fluminense on Sunday evening, while Botafogo and Flamengo were held by Boavista and Madureira respectively, meaning none of the first division clubs were victorious.
During the week, Botafogo parted company with coach Joel Santana. Having guided Botafogo to sixth place last term in the national Campeonato Brasileiro, his sacking comes at a surprising time.
New coach Caio Junior oversaw his first game on Saturday evening as Botafogo drew 0-0 with Boavista. CaIo certainly obliged his new chairman’s wishes of more attacking football and Botafogo began positively.
Somalia took up the mantle and led the attack. He missed Botafogo’s first chance after seven minutes, but for the remainder of the game ensured his side played at a high tempo, refusing Boavista time to dwell on the ball. After 45 minutes of complete domination, Botafogo found it difficult to maintain the same fast paced approach after the interval.
For the first time in the game, they found themselves on the back foot, but two inspired substitutions allowed them to wrest control from their opponents. Jairo and Guilherme brought fresh impetus but alas no route to goal. However, the signs were encouraging. In Caio’s first game in charge that a fresh approach will reap dividends for the club.
Flamengo’s new players have already helped to bring one trophy to Gavea this year, but farcical defending against Madureira on Sunday afternoon cost them not only victory but a place in the top two of Group A after a 3-3 draw.
Flamengo gifted Madureira the lead on 33 minutes when Welinton comically sliced a cross into his own net. Try 100 times and he would not be able to repeat the same bizarre feat. Three minutes before half time, Leo Moura leveled with an emphatic close range finish, only for Flamengo to fall 3-1 behind after an hour.
The Guanabara champions were on the verge of humiliation, but substitute Deivid reduced the deficit with twenty minutes to go, before Thiago Neves equalized after 82 minutes.
There is no doubt that Flamengo’s attacking capabilities will be one of the most potent come the start of the national season. However, if they are to challenge for top honors, like so many expect them to do, their aging, creaky defense will have to tighten.
Tight defenses were the order of the day at the Engenhao as Fluminense and Vasco recorded a stalemate. The uninspiring game saw Vasco secure the leadership at the top of their group, while Fluminense will have to find a new coach soon if they are not to lose all direction and motivation.
Great work from both goalkeepers kept the score blank, but in truth it was a game of few chances and far too much prudence. Both sides were clearly happy to settle for a point than go all out for victory. The return to full fitness of Flu captain Fred has brought little in the way of attacking ingenuity to the side.
The Tricolor play Volta Redonda on Sunday, knowing only three points will give them a chance of winning their first silverware of the year. Confidence is low, but a victory, any victory, can turn everything around.