By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Fluminense won the 2012 Campeonato Carioca after soundly handling Botafogo in the tournament’s final. Following the comprehensive 4-1 victory last week, a 1-0 victory, courtesy of Rafael Moura’s close range finish, last Sunday at the Engenhão Stadium gave the Laranjeiras outfit a 5-1 aggregate victory over the Alvinegro.
The last seven days for Fogão coach Oswaldo de Oliveira have gone from bad to worse, his side having now suffered three successive defeats. Last Wedneday, they were eliminated from the Copa do Brasil after losing 2-1 to Vitoria in Rio.
For Fluminense, they are only looking up and have little time to dwell on their state triumph. On Thursday, they return to the dragon’s den of the Bombonera for the first leg of their Copa Libertadores quarter-final tier against Buenos Aires giants Boca Juniors.
Botafogo started Sunday’s second leg on the front foot. Having lost the first match by such a wide margin, they had no time to sit and twiddle their thumbs. In the opening exchanges, Elkeson headed just wide whilst Loco Abreu should have done better with a close-range effort which Diego Cavalieri managed to palm to safety.
Yet all-out-attack wasn’t the only order of the day. The Glorioso still needed to arm their defense as Deco and Thiago Neves began to threaten for the Tricolor on the counter. Rafael Moura missed a sitter when just eight yards out and Jefferson made a brave save at Anderson’s feet.
While Flu picked at scraps here and there Botafogo continued to feed on better chances and ball possession; as the referee blew the whistle for half-time, Fogo had seen 58 percent of the ball, but still had nothing to show for it.
The second half began in the same manner after Oswaldo de Oliveira removed the once again anonymous Elkeson, replacing him with Argentine striker Herrera. The substitute shot poorly from range before full-back Marcio Azevedo and Fellype Gabriel both went close to breaking the deadlock.
But on 62 minutes came the decisive moment that would break Fogo hearts. Carlinhos, down the left flank, drilled a low cross into the midst of the Botafogo penalty area.
Rafael Moura, slightly ahead of Thiago Neves, stuck out a toe and diverted the ball into the net, the goal that would settle the Carioca title.
Botafogo now needed to score four goals in 28 minutes, a nigh-on impossible feat. Oswaldo de Oliveira threw on Vitinho to try and threaten, but the fight had gone out of his players as well the fans on the terraces.
Fluminense responded by turning the game into a mere training exercise. Any chance became a rarity and Maicosuel, out of pure frustration, picked up a needless second yellow card and was sent off.
The red card was Botafogo’s third in three games after Lucas’ two dismissals against Fluminense and Vitoria. Flu coach Abel Braga sent on his son, Fábio, for his first Flu performance as a professional.
The youngster put in a promising performance, alongside another exciting youth, Marcos Júnior, as Flu finished the game stronger than their jaded opponents. As the final whistle blew, the Tricolor fans were already in full celebration swing. The first title of 2012 is in the bag, next comes the national Campeonato Brasileirão starting next week.