By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – There was little time for Flamengo to dwell on Sunday’s (March 5th) loss to arch-rival, Fluminense. Last night (March 8th), the Rubro-Negra made a triumphant return to iconic Maracanã Stadium blasting Argentinian club San Lorenzo, 4-0, to open its 2017 Copa Libertadores campaign.
A raucous crowd of nearly 60,000, the largest for a football match in Brazil this year, awaited the team which had not played in the famed stadium since late 2016.
The back story surrounding Maracanã Stadium’s disrepair and abandonment following the Rio 2016 Olympic Games has been well-chronicled in both local and international news. Despite announcing that the stadium would be the site of last night’s game over a week ago, it was not until late Tuesday, March 7th, that government officials deemed the stadium fit for Wednesday’s game.
From the game’s outset, Flamengo looked to be the aggressor, but despite several early scoring chances, the club was unable to capitalize. San Lorenzo, which had not yet played an official game in 2017 due to an ongoing players’ strike in Argentina, was on its heels for most of the first half and was also unable to get on the scoreboard.
Following the scoreless first period, a determined Flamengo took over the game in the second period. Only three minutes into the second half, Diego arched a perfectly placed free kick past the San Lorenzo defenders and keeper sending the 60,000 fans into a frenzy.
The Rubro-Negra struck again at the 61-minute mark when Miguel Trauco launched a long-range rocket from past the goal area that found the back of the net, giving Flamengo the 2-0 lead.
A Rômulo header added to the club’s lead at the seventieth minute and the celebration was on at Maracanã. With the game well in hand, Gabriel added another goal minutes before the game’s end to give the team the 4-0 victory.
In the Copa Libertadores, Flamengo and San Lorenzo, are seeded in Group 4, along with Chile’s Club Deportivo Universidad Católica and Atletico Paranaense.
Flamengo’s next match in the Copa Libertadores will be against Club Deportivo Universidad Católica on Wednesday, March 15th.