By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Fluminense went second after the sixteenth round of the 2012 Brasileirão despite an unconvincing display against Palmeiras. Flamengo continued their upsurge in form with a comfortable victory over Náutico, but there was disappointment for Vasco and Botafogo, who lost and drew respectively.
Vagner Love struck twice for Flamengo as they saw off Náutico 2-0. The brace took the striker level with Fred and Alecsandro at the top of the Brasileirão scoring charts with eight goals.
Flamengo went on the attack from the offset but the gaps in their defense was a constant worry. No one was hungrier for goal than Love, who opened the scoring on fourteen minutes, beating Marlon before finishing firmly. The goal fired up Flamengo and they refused to take their foot off the gas.
Renato should have doubled the Rubro-Negro’s lead before Vagner Love made sure of the points just before half-time. Cutting inside the opposition defense, his first effort hit the post before he finished the rebound.
A Ronaldinho inspired Atlético-MG beat Vasco 1-0 in Minas Gerais to stay top of the table. It was first verses second, separated by a solitary point prior to kick-off, but on the pitch, especially in the second half, Atlético looked better equipped for an assault on the title.
The Cariocas initially withstood the pressure, but the ineffectual Eder Luis left the side with little bite up front. Atlético slowly wrested the game from Vasco with Bernard and Jô missing glorious chances.
Losing any sort of influence, Vasco resorted to one of their most potent weapons; the counter-attack. Carlos Alberto saw his rapid effort blocked by Réver when it looked like he might snatch the lead.
But the second half belonged to Ronaldinho. His vision and pinpoint passes created opportunities for Bernard and Marcos Rocha before his excursions finally reaped reward. Surging down the left, his shot found Jô via Fernando Prass’ fingertips, who headed the game’s only goal.
Fluminense took full advantage of Vasco’s slip-up to edge a scrappy 1-0 win over Palmeiras at the Engenhão Stadium. Jean’s first goal for the club was enough to send the Tricolor second, three points behind Atlético-MG.
It was Flu’s third successive victory but the points weren’t assured until seven minutes from time, when the game looked destined for a goalless draw. With five players missing through injury, including Deco who will be out for two months, Flu failed to penetrate a stubbornly organized Palmeiras outfit.
With nothing arriving in the area, Fred and Sóbis were forced to track back in search of the ball. Flu enjoyed more possession but were failing to make it count.
Abel Braga once again took off Thiago Neves, who is failing dismally to live up to his R$720,000-a-month salary. As the game trudged towards its likely outcome, Sóbis linked with Jean, and the midfielder powered the ball across Bruno and into the far corner.
Botafogo let a lead slip against Portuguesa to draw 1-1 and fall further behind the table toppers. New signing Calrence Seedorf entered in the second half but made little difference to a quiet game. The Alvinegro lie in eight position, already fourteen points off first. A supposed title challenge looks more distant with each passing round.