By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday, November 20th, Flamengo players and fans were stunned by a last minute goal from Coritiba, which tied the game 2×2 and extinguished any hope of Flamengo winning the 2016 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A (Brasileirão).
The stakes were high for the Rubro-Negra entering Sunday’s game. Following first-place Palmeiras’ 1×0 victory over Botafogo, which ended just moments before the match, Flamengo was fully aware that it needed nothing short of a win to keep the club’s scant hopes of a 2016 title alive.
In front of forty thousand raucous hometown fans at Maracanã Stadium, Flamengo’s urgency was on clear display as the club came out charging, with an aggressive attack. Éverton got the ball on the left and launched a perfect cross to Gabriel who deftly put the ball into the back of the net for the quick 1×0 lead, only two minutes into the game.
At the 28th minute, Flamengo would double their lead with Éverton again leading the way with a picture perfect pass to Diego who scored Flamengo’s second goal.
Despite spending most of the first half fending off a furious Flamengo offense, minutes before halftime, Coritiba was able to get on the scoreboard. A Coritiba shot attempt ricocheted off the goal post into the left foot of Amaral who promptly knocked the ball in at the 42nd minute for Coritiba’s first goal.
The score remained unchanged deep into the second period. Finally at the 88th minute, with Flamengo feeling victory in hand, Coritiba striker Kléber dribbled unabated into the heart of Flamengo’s porous defense and launched a shot that skipped past a flat-footed Muralha to tie the game. Following five minutes of stoppage time, the match ended in a 2×2 draw to the shock and dismay of Flamengo players and fans.
The draw left Flamengo with 67 points, seven behind leaders Palmeiras, and with only two rounds to go, mathematically eliminated from title contention.
But, the stakes remain high for G4 (top four) positioning as Flamengo turns its focus to their next match on Sunday, November 27th, against Santos. The Rubro-Negra currently sit at third place, one point behind second-place Santos, and five points ahead of fourth-place, Atlético-MG.
The G4 teams in the Brasileirão automatically qualify for the Copa Libertadores tournament, with the top three teams directly entering the group stage.