By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Volta Redonda was the epicenter of Rio de Janeiro football (soccer) this past Sunday, June 4th, as Flamengo and Botafogo squared off at Raulino de Oliveira Stadium in Round Four of the 2017 Campeonato Brasileiro (Brasileirão) Série A.
In the end, neither team could find the back of the net in a tight back-and-forth battle that almost saw 16-year-old phenom, Flamengo’s Vinícius Júnior, score his first professional goal minutes before game’s end.
Entering Sunday’s match, Flamengo had yet to suffer a loss in the young 2017 Brasileirão season, but with two draws in three matches, the Rubro-Negra have been inconsistent at best. Not helping matters, the club has several key attackers, namely Éverton and Éderson, working their way back from recent injuries.
Botafogo also had health concerns of its own on Sunday, with playmakers Camilo and Lindoso sidelined for the match. Injuries notwithstanding, the Lone Star have been impressive of late, earning a spot in the quarter-finals of the Copa do Brasil on Wednesday, May 31st.
Sunday’s match was a stalemate from the opening whistle. At the outset, Flamengo looked to press the action while Botafogo seemed content to rely on counter-attacks. Such strategies produced few legitimate scoring opportunities and, as expected, resulted in a scoreless first period.
The second period saw both teams adopt a more aggressive stance resulting in numerous scoring chances. Flamengo’s top attacker Paolo Guerrero missed a golden opportunity nine minutes into the half. The Peruvian found himself at the edge of the goal area for a breakaway goal, but Botafogo keeper Fernández closed quickly on the onrushing Guerrero to make the clutch block.
Only several minutes later, Botafogo would squander an even greater opportunity when Roger appeared to have an open look from the left side of the goal box, but somehow the attacker’s shot sailed just wide of the goal.
Both teams would miss on several more chances in the period culminating at the 38-minute mark when Real Madrid’s latest acquisition, Vinícius Júnior, launched what looked to be a game-breaking goal from the edge of the penalty box.
To the collective groan of the thousands of Flamengo fans in attendance, the shot just barely grazed the top of the goal post leaving the 16-year-old phenom still in search of his first professional goal.
With the game ending in a scoreless draw, Flamengo remains unbeaten in the Brasileirão while looking less than impressive. With six points and three draws, the Rubro-Negra find themselves in the middle of the standings in eleventh place. Botafogo edges Flamengo by a hair in the standings with seven points, enough for eighth place.
Both clubs return to the pitch this Wednesday, June 7th, for Round Five of the Brasileirão with Flamengo facing off against Sport Recife at Ilha Do Retiro and Botafogo taking on Santos at Pacaembu.