By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Fluminense fans were left in shock after the third round of Taça Rio matches when coach Muricy Ramalho quit shortly after his side’s goalless draw with Flamengo. The coach, who has four Brasilerao successes to his name, released a statement on Sunday evening explaining his dissatisfaction with club structure had brought about his decision.
“When I arrived [at Fluminense] I was promised two conditions: a team who could be champions and a change to the physical structure of the club. Sadly, an improvement in structure was not realized. I want to thank everyone who worked with me during this period. However, the special thanks is for the fans who fully supported me,” Ramalho said.
The breaking news has overshadowed the last two rounds of the tournament, in which none of the big four lost a game. Before drawing 0-0 in the FlaFlu derby on Sunday, Fluminense beat Ameirca-RJ 3-1 at the Engenhao on Wednesday evening. Two goals from the in form Rafael Moura, and a first goal for Dario Conca since returning from knee surgery left Flu with two wins from two in the tournament and Flamengo beat Bangu by the skin of their teeth 2-1 courtesy of Diego Mauricio’s late strike.
Meanwhile, a crowd of over 26,000 attended Sunday’s game between Fluminense and Flamengo. Despite neither side managing to break down their opponents’ defense, both teams tried to play open and attacking football from the off.
Conca is strengthening with every game, and tested Felipe with little more than a minute gone. Flamengo had opted for some young blood and Egidio and Negueba both exerted themselves strongly on proceedings, refusing to be overawed by the tie.
The rhythm of the second half intensified, with Conca outshining Ronaldinho in effort and creativity, but neither side could find a breakthrough.
Botafogo remain top of Group B after two more victories, the first a hard fought 1-0 win away to Nova Iguacu. Three points were secured, but their performance was far from convincing. With Renato Caja absent, Joel Santana opted to play Bruno in the centre of midfield. Caja’s absence was sorely felt by the players, who rely on his quick thinking and nimble feet to orchestrate many of their attacks.
The goal came early in the first half, Everton shooting home after Nova Iguacu failed to clear a low cross. But heads did not drop, and the hosts began to dominate the midfield and put Botafogo on the back foot. It was only the smart reactions of goalkeeper Jefferson that kept the visitors’ lead in tact.
But on Saturday, Fogao thrashed Americano 4-0 in the Engenhao, with goals from Joao Filipe, Loco Abreu and a brace from Herrera.
After another slow start, Vasco have finally found some decent form with two comfortable victories. On Wednesday, they saw off Duque de Caxias 4-2 after storming into a three goal lead in the first half.
As has become customary with this unpredictable Vasco side, they made hard work of earning the points after allowing the visitors back into the game with goals from Somalia and Ari to bring the score back to 3-2. But ten minutes from time, Dede made sure of the points with a close range finish.
Sunday saw them overcome Madureira by the same 4-2 score line, thanks in no small part to a stunning hat-trick from Bernardo. Vasco now find themselves in second place in Group A and in a position to forget their disastrous Taça Guanabara campaign as long as they continue their attacking instincts and qualify for the semi finals.