By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Four successive victories in the 2012 Campeonato Brasileirão have put Rio side Vasco da Gama two points clear at the top of the table. After comfortably seeing off Nautico last Wednesday night, June 6th, the Cruz-Maltino traveled to the North-East on Sunday, June 10th, where they narrowly defeated Bahia 2-1.
Despite elimination from the Libertadores at the hands of Corinthians, Vasco have firmly planted themselves at the top of the Brasileirão. One more excellent performance, especially in the first half, saw them defeat Bahia 2-1 and open a two point gap at the head of the table.
Two fantastic strikes, a free-kick from Juninho and a memorable individual effort from Diego Souza, were enough to give Vasco the three points and leave them as the only side with a hundred percent record left in the competition.
But perhaps the best news for Vascaínos was the reappearance of monstrous center-half Dedé, who has been missing for two months through injury. His reassuring presence helped see his side across the finish line, although keeper Fernando Prass was called into action on three occasions late on, before Júnior scored a consolation for the Bahians at the death.
Atlético-MG sit in second on ten points, whilst Rio’s three remaining competitors all have six. Flamengo recorded their first victory of the campaign against Coritiba, Fluminense drew their third consecutive match and Botafogo tasted defeat for the second game in a row.
Joel Santana ensured his job is safe for another week as Flamengo beat Coritiba 3-1 at the Engenhão. The Rubro-Negro opened a 2-0 lead early on through Vagner Love and Luiz Antonio, but true to form they let the visitors back into the match.
Emerson pulled one back for Coritiba when he climbed above Welinton to head in Lincoln’s cross. But after the interval, Flamengo’s new signing Ibson, coupled with youngster Luiz Antonio, refused to let their opponents get a grip on the midfield, with Hernane making sure of victory in stoppage time.
Meanwhile, Fluminense’s stale form continued after a 0-0 draw against Internacional meant they have picked up just three points from the last nine available. With a full strength line-up that included Fred, Deco and the sought after Wellington Nem, the Tricolor were still unable to break down a stubborn Inter defense.
Fred’s rustiness showed; the Seleção striker is taking his first steps back after injury, and missed a good chance on ten minutes after Nem’s supply. Flu’s creativity wasn’t helped by the shoddy state of the Engenhão pitch after Flamengo’s exertions the previous evening, and for all their possession Abel Braga’s men were unable to create a spectacle.
Botafogo’s good start has been halted by two straight defeats. After losing 3-2 to Cruzeiro last Thursday June 7th, the Alvinegro lost by the same scoreline to newly promoted Naútico on Sunday evening.
The side committed a plethora of basic errors, showed a lack of imagination in wresting the game from the hosts even after they had been reduced to ten men, and even after equalizing managed to throw it away to lose 3-2. Fogão raced out of the blocks, Herrera missing a good chance, but it was Nautico who took the lead when Souza combined with Araújo on sixteen minutes.
Lúcio doubled their lead just after the half-hour, but Botafogo fought back after the interval. Márcio Azevedo halved the deficit three minutes into the second half before Márcio Rosário was dismissed for the hosts.
An own goal brought the scores level before Derley outpaced the sluggish Fogo defense to score the winner. The team’s defensive frailties had cost them dear, but they had not been helped by a lack of punch at the front.