By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – A remarkable week for Rio’s clubs in the Brasileirao ended with Fluminense finally off the bottom of the table, having recorded impressive back to back wins against title-chasing sides Atletico-MG, and Cruzeiro and Flamengo hitting the top four at last. The picture could have looked even rosier for Flamengo had they not suffered a resounding 2 x 0 defeat at the hands of minnows Barueri on Wednesday, but with five games left to play they are now just four points off the top. Botafogo scraped two 1 x 0 wins to see them out of the relegation zone and with a little breathing space at last.
Cruzeiro 2 x 3 Fluminense
The return of star striker Fred has seen a remarkable run of 6 games unbeaten for a club that has struggled to find any consistency all season, and if it continues it could still save their Serie A status. Maicon had a golden chance for the visitors early on but tripped over having beaten the keeper, and Cruzeiro responded immediately with a strike from Jonathan that beat Fernando Henrique at his near post. Wellington Paulista missed a penalty for the home side but made amends on the half hour with a coolly taken strike to make it 2 x 0 at the break but it could have easily been 5 or 6.
The interval came at the perfect time for the Carioca club, and they came out a different side in the second half. Within ten minutes they got one back through Gum with a snapshot from inside the area, and moments later it was all square, Fred receiving the ball from deep and finishing well from a tight angle. Remarkably the striker completed the spectacular turnaround against his old club, latching on to a great ball from Maicon to make it 2 x 3.
Flamengo 1 x 0 Santos
Bruno put the disappointment of the midweek defeat at Barueri behind him with two penalty saves that keep his team in the title chase. Inside ten minutes Flamengo were ahead with a cracking header from Adriano after a hopeful cross from Leo Moura, but Santos reacted strongly and were awarded their first penalty soon after, which Bruno saved at full stretch to his left.
Adriano was repeatedly denied by the Santos keeper, but with little support from the usually dependable Petkovic or the rest of his side, Flamengo had to absorb repeated attacks as Santos pushed for an equalizer. Then it was Bruno again who had to be on top form to keep out a second penalty, this time Ganso drilled it straight down the middle and the keeper’s feet saved the day.
Internacional 0 x 1 Botafogo
What should have been a straightforward win for high flying Inter turned into a nightmare after just two minutes of football when Juninho gave the visitors the lead with an inch perfect free kick from 30 yards out that left Lauro with no chance in goal. At the other end Jefferson was repeatedly called into action, pulling off some excellent reflex saves to maintain the advantage.
The second half was a more pedestrian affair, but even with Andre Lima sent off for a second yellow card Botafogo managed to shut out Inter and as the crowd turned on their team, so the job became even more difficult for the players, and despite several good efforts on goal, there was no way past and in-form Jefferson.
Next weekend sees Fluminense take on leaders Palmeiras at The Maracana, Flamengo travel to fellow title candidates Atletico-MG and Botafogo host Coritiba, all to be played on Sunday.