By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – This past weekend, Rio de Janeiro state’s top football (soccer) clubs returned to the pitch with the opening round of the 2017 Campeonato Carioca. Rio’s big four all saw action with Flamengo easily defeating Boavista 4-1, Botafogo drawing 1-1 with Nova Iguaçu, and Fluminense shutting out Vasco da Gama, 3-0.
Nação Rubro-Negra (Flamengo fans) were out in full force for Flamengo’s opening match on Saturday, January 28th at Arena da Dunas in Natal, and the club did not disappoint. At the 31-minute mark, Flamengo drew first blood against Boavista off the head of Peruvian striker Paulo Guerrero. Recent Boavista addition, Thiago Rodrigues da Silva, commonly known as Mosquito, would answer ten minutes later scoring his own header past Flamengo keeper Alex Muralha.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Flamengo would take the lead with a goal from Trauco and never look back. Guerrero added another goal, his second header of the night, at the sixty-minute mark and Diego would seal the club’s easy 4-1 victory with another score seconds before the end of regulation.
Coming off a disappointing 2-0 opening loss to Madureira on Wednesday, January 25th, Botafogo was looking to rebound against Nova Iguaçu, on Saturday at the Engenhão. With a rocket header from midfielder Marcelo, Botafogo took a 1-0 lead into the second half. But, the club would have to settle for a 1-1 draw as Nova Iguaçu’s Murilo Henrique would tie the game minutes into the second half denying Botafogo its first victory.
The Engenhão would see more action on Sunday, January 29th, as two of Rio’s big four clubs went head-to-head with Fluminense taking on Vasco, the 2016 Campeonato Carioca champion. After a back-and-forth opening, Fluminense broke the game open midway through the first half with two quick goals from Wellington and Henrique Dourado. A third goal late in the second half from Marcos Júnior would secure Flu’s 3-0 win.
The clubs will be back on the pitch for a slate of week two games on Wednesday, February 1st and Thursday, February 2nd.
Since 1906, the Campeonato Carioca has provided an important showcase for smaller clubs in Rio de Janeiro state to compete against their more well-known rivals.