By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The pre-match talk was all about the poor form of the two Rio sides going head to head in round 22 of the Brasileirão and the unthinkable prospect of the city losing two teams to the second division next season.
Few, however, genuinely expected the game between Botafogo and Fluminense to finish in a dreary draw with no goals and little excitement, and adding to the condemnation in the post-match autopsies across the country.
Flamengo had more to cheer about, however, and Adriano was welcomed back from international duty like a returning war hero and duly scored a wonder goal to help lift his side’s woes.
Botafogo 0 x 0 Fluminense
There was something of a new look to the Fluminense side that stepped out on Sunday evening but sadly the level of skill on display was predictably low. The new strikeforce of Alan and Adeilson brought better movement upfront but bore no better results, whilst Ezequiel’s debut in midfield was forgettable despite grazing the bar early on from the edge of the area.
André Lima also fired just over for Botafogo from a header, but with poor passing and desperate shooting the two sides were restricted to optimistic long range shots in the first half, Reinaldo summing things up with a horribly-skewed effort that spun out for a throw in.
The game followed a similar trajectory in the second half, and both sides mirrored the other’s chances of the opening fort-five minutes, André Lima firing over the bar and Kieza failing to beat Botafogo’s Jefferson in a one-on-one with the goalkeeper that should have given his side the lead. The young forward did finally find the net as the game drew to a close but he was flagged for offside and the match limped to a close.
Flamengo 3 x 0 Sport
Flamengo did their local rivals a favor with a three-goal demolition of relegation prospects Sport at the Maracanã on Saturday afternoon as they welcomed back Adriano from international duty against Argentina last week. He and 37 year-old Petkovic form an experienced partnership, linking inside of three minutes to give the home side a 1 x 0 lead courtesy of a perfect left footed-shot into the top corner – Adriano’s eleventh of the season.
A strong penalty shout for a tackle on Moura was then waved away as Flamengo dominated their opponents, and on the half hour another Petkovic pass released Zé Roberto who finished to make it 2 x 0 at the break.
With the crowd behind them and Adriano in inspired form there was no sitting back after the interval, the striker going close with a fine volley and then producing a spectacular bicycle kick which nearly brought him his second of the game. Just when it looked like there was to be no more action, he grabbed a second with a minute left on the clock, rising to power home a header and once again send the fans home chanting his name.
The next round will see all three Carioca teams play on Sunday and on paper Flamengo have the best chance of a victory with their home game against Curitiba. Fluminense will take on the mighty Grêmio in the afternoon’s televised match from Porto Alegre, whilst Botafogo travel to in-form Santos. All sides will need to be on top form if they are to secure a much-needed three points.