By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Local football (soccer) fans had a full slate of games this past weekend as Rio’s big four football clubs returned to the pitch for the opening round of the 2017 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A (Brasileirão).
Coming off the club’s emotional victory in the Campeonato Carioca, Flamengo kicked off Round 1 for Rio’s big four, with the Rubro-Negra drawing 1-1 with Atlético Mineiro on Saturday, May 13th at Maracanã.
Flamengo’s Matheus Savio scored the game’s first and only goal for the Rubro-Negra with a twisting shot from thirty meters out just over Atlético Mineiro keeper, Victor. Early in the second period, Atlético Mineiro would respond with Elias scoring the equalizer to help his team escape Maracanã with the 1-1 draw.
On Sunday (May 14th) morning, also at Maracanã, Fluminense defeated Santos in an entertaining 3-2 battle. Flu’s Henrique Dourado opened the scoring, combining with Léo for a beautiful close range shot just three minutes into the game. Santos equalized when Victor Ferraz scored a header at the 38-minute mark, but Dourado would again put Flu ahead with a penalty shot right before halftime.
Sornoza extended Flu’s lead 12 minutes into the second with a curling shot that evaded three Santos defenders. Vladimir Hernández would score Santos’ second goal just minutes before the end of regulation. But, it would not be enough as Flu would hold on for the 3-2 win.
For Vasco, it was a game they would soon like to forget as the club was rolled over 4-0 by the 2016 Brasileirão champs, Palmeiras. Martin Silva started off the scoring at the six-minute mark with a penalty shot goal just past the diving Vasco keeper, Martín Silva. Palmeiras would double its lead just before the half when Alejandro Guerra scored on the rebound off the blocked shot.
Within the first minute of the second half, the Verdão (Palmeiras’ nickname, literally ‘Big Green’) would score their third goal on a beautiful header from Borja. Borja would strike again in the game’s final minutes on a penalty shot goal to complete the 4-0 rout over Vasco.
Botafogo capped off the Brasileirão’s opening weekend with a 2-0 loss to Grêmio. Just as the first half came to an end, Grêmio’s Ramiro opened the scoring, knocking the ball in off the defended blocked shot.
Ramiro would score again early in the second with a controversial goal as the ball appeared to bounce off teammate Luan’s hand before entering the net. Nonetheless, the goal was allowed, securing the 2-0 win over Botafogo.
The Brasileirão features Brazil’s top twenty teams competing in 38 rounds of games until a champion is crowned in December. The G4 (top four) teams in the final season’s standings automatically qualify for next year’s Copa Libertadores tournament, with the top three teams directly entering the group stage.