By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Fluminense re-assumed pole position in the race for the 2010 Brasilerão on Sunday evening. Cruzeiro’s 4-3 defeat to Atlético-MG meant a point at Atlético-PR was enough for Muricy Ramalho’s men to reach the summit, albeit on goal difference.
There was more good news for Carioca football, as Joel Santana’s Botafogo let to the Copa Libertadores qualifying positions with a hard fought victory over relegation threatened Vitória, while Vasco and Flamengo shared the spoils in a Rio derby at the Engenhâo.
Botafogo 1-0 Vitória
After eight consecutive draws, Botafogo finally managed to take all three points in a rain soaked Engenhâo on Saturday night. The heavy downpour took the skill out of the encounter, and a tetchy first half, in which both sides created next to nothing, looked to be ending goalless, until the hosts were awarded a free kick 25 yards from goal.
Marcelo Cordeira stepped up, and curled a beautiful effort around the Vitória wall and into the top right hand corner of the goal to score Botafogo’s 200th goal at their home stadium. Vitória goalkeeper Viafara didn’t stand a chance, and they offered little in reply after the break, and Jefferson was never forced into action during the second half. Botafogo almost doubled their lead through Marcelo Mattos before the end, but a 1-0 victory was enough to take them within touching distance of South America’s holy grail.
Atlético-PR 2-2 Fluminense
A quiet game burst into life in the second half as both sides strained for their respective goals. Paranaense are in contention for Copa Libertadores qualification, while these pages have heavily documented Fluminense’s fight for the title.
The hosts took the lead after Paulo Baier’s cross was headed into his own net by the futile Washington. Having failed to find the net in his last eight outings, he finally succeeded, although it was at the wrong end.
Fluminense’s reply came within five minutes, with midfielder Marquinho striking a sweet right footed shot from 25 yards. However, a defensive mix up was to give Atlético the lead again, after Wagner Diniz’s cross was not cleared, and the full back was able to slot his own cross home.
But two minutes from time, the Rio side were awarded a penalty after Tarta was tripped in the area. Captain Dario Conca took responsibility for the dead ball, and smashed it into the middle of the goal to earn his side a point.
Vasco 1-1 Flamengo
Flamengo dominated the first clássico to be held between these sides at Botafogo’s Engenhão, but could only come away with a point. Despite Flamengo leading possession, it was Vasco who took the lead after 27 minutes, when the Rubro-Negro failed to clear Zé Roberto’s cross, and Cesinha was given time and space to volley home into and empty goal.
Petkovic came on for the second half in place of Kleberson, and immediately made a difference for Flamengo. His calmness on the ball and in distribution paid dividends, as he slowed the game to his own pace, and began to dictate the tempo.
It was with ten minutes left that the Serbian veteran fed Marquinhos to cross for Renato, who headed home to equalize. Flamengo looked the more threatening in the final minutes, but failed to convert their superior performance into victory.