By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Both Fluminense and Botafogo now occupy positions in the bottom four while Flamengo is holding on to seventh position with a solid 2 x 2 draw away to Sao Paulo in round ten of the Brasileirao. Fluminense suffered a shock 0 x 1 home defeat to newcomers Santo Andre and dropped into eighteenth, one place behind Botafogo who secured their second win of the season with a 1 x 2 away win at bottom club Avai.
Avai 1 x 2 Botafogo: Botafogo secured an important win in Florianopolis to ease the pressure slightly on coach Ney Franco on the first anniversary of his taking charge of the club. With their line up back to something like full strength, the visitors displayed renewed confidence and went two up in the first half to put the game beyond the home side’s reach. Victor Simoes in attack and Batista in midfield were imperious, the former winning a free kick on thirteen minutes on the edge of the area which Juninho coolly slotted home. Batista’s cross for a Renato header almost doubled the lead moments later. Avai crept back into the game but wasted chances, first through striker Muriqui and then Luis Ricardo. Botafogo’s response was strong. Just before the break, Lucio Flavio chipped a free kick into the Avai area and Renato got in front of the defender to steer the ball into the net.
With a two goal advantage going into the second half, Botafogo’s lead should have been safe but the home side refused to give up the chase and improved once striker Roberto was introduced in place of Luis Ricardo. Within ten minutes of the restart the substitute had crossed for Marquinhos who finished from six yards out to reduce the deficit and put the Carioca’s on the back foot. That was as good as it would get for Avai, who despite throwing everything forward towards the end could not avoid slumping to their fifth defeat of the season.
Fluminense 0 x 1 Santo Andre: A 4 x 2 midweek defeat at Corinthians was still fresh in the players’ minds as Fluminense got underway against Santo Andre at the Engenhao Stadium on Sunday night, and the nightmare continued as a freak goal undid them with less than five minutes played. The much maligned Wellington Monteiro looked on hopelessly as the ball ricoched off him into his own net. Despite relentless pressure from then on, the league’s worst attack simply could not find a way through and failed to create many clear chances, the best coming at the other end with swift counter attacks from the visitors.
With Fred sent off in the last round and unable to play, Leandro Amaral was left to lead the front line but he constantly had to drop deep to collect the ball, leaving Flu short of attacking options. New signing Ruy was lively down the right and linking well with the ever active Conca, but still the killer pass was not forthcoming and both crowd and players grew impatient as the match drew to a close. Wellington Monteiro and Edcarlos will need good strength of character if they are to win over the fans booing their every touch as the season progresses. Stronger defending from the pair is needed if Fluminense are to haul themselves out of the relegation zone.
Sao Paulo 2 x 2 Flamengo: Adriano’s return to his former club saw honors even but another stellar show from the striker secured Flamengo a point. He was greeted by a three man defense determined to subdue his attacking instincts, but the ‘imperador’ rose to the occasion and put in a man of the match display. Indeed his pressure after just three minutes led to a dreadful clearance by the Sao Paulo goalkeeper Denis straight into Fierro who put away the rebound to silence the home fans. He made amends shortly after, quashing an uncharacteristically clumsy Adriano effort, and soon the home side were back on level terms with a fine strike from Borges. Again Adriano stepped up moments later, taking on two defenders, drawing a foul and then slotting home the resulting penalty to show the fans at Morumbi what they are missing since letting him go.
In the second period Flamengo were happy to shut up shop, limiting themselves to the odd counter attack and largey containing a lively home side, but eventually the breakthrough came via a controversial penalty. Willians was adjudged to have impeded Miranda in the area and Jorge Wagner coolly slotted home the penalty to make it 2 x 2 in another thrilling encounte between the two sides.
There is a midweek round ahead with Fluminense facing the tough trip to Internacional on Wednesday night desperate for a win and Flamengo entertaining fourth placed Palmeiras. Botafogo do not play until Wednesday July 22, when they will host Cruzeiro after a ten day break.