By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Wednesday, November 23rd, the first leg of the Copa do Brasil (Brazil Cup) championship final got underway as Grêmio traveled to Belo Horizonte to take on Atlético-MG at Mineirão Stadium. In an intense game, Grêmio overpowered the home team, 3×1, to take the opener in the home-away final.
For most of the first half, both teams appeared evenly matched with neither club able to seize the advantage. The turning point came at the 29th minute when Pedro Rocha streaked behind several Atlético-MG defenders to receive a beautiful pass from Maicon and score the game’s first goal for the visitors.
The opening goal rattled the home team who were on their heels the rest of the half. Only a couple of great saves from Atlético-MG keeper Victor prevented an early blowout.
Grêmio would carry the 1×0 lead into the second period when a spectacular individual effort, again from Rocha, would double their lead. At the 55-minute mark, Rocha took on the entire Atlético-MG defense alone, driving right into the goal area from midfield culminating with his second goal of the game.
It would be a bittersweet game for Rocha who would tearfully leave the field only ten minutes after scoring his second goal when he received his second yellow card of the match.
The hometown fans finally had reason to cheer at the 82nd minute when, off a corner kick, defender Gabriel launched a rocket past Grêmio keeper Marcelo Grohe. The hometown fans frantically cheered a late game comeback. But, it was not to be, as in the game’s final minute, Atlético-MG’s defense again failed them, allowing Grêmio attacker Everton, to get behind them for the easy goal to seal the 3×1 victory.
Now the two teams switch home-away roles for the final game on Wednesday, November 30th, at the Arena do Grêmio, in Porto Alegre, to decide the 2016 Brazil Cup champion.
The Brazil Cup is a knockout football competition that begins in March with 86 teams participating, representing all 26 states throughout Brazil.