By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – For only the fourth time ever, on Sunday, March 26th, two of Rio’s biggest football (soccer) clubs clashed outside the confines of Rio de Janeiro as Flamengo took on Vasco at Mané Garrincha Stadium in Brasília in the fourth round of the Taça Rio, the second stage of the 2017 Campeonato Carioca.
A power failure, a player ejection, and a questionable game-changing penalty would all play a part in an exciting 2-2 draw between the two arch-rivals.
The stakes were high for Vasco on Sunday. Entering the game, the 2016 Campeonato Carioca champions were close to slipping out of the top four teams in Group C with only two more rounds to go. Only the top four clubs overall move forward to the Taça Rio semi-finals.
Fifteen minutes into the game, Vasco would open the scoring when Yago Pikachu received a perfect pass from Nenê and knocked in the close-range shot past Muralha.
At the 27th-minute, the game came to a halt when the stadium went dark due to a power failure. After a nine-minute delay, play resumed with Flamengo unable to score for the remainder of the half.
The Rubro-Negra finally gained the momentum when, eight minutes into the second half, Vasco’s Luis Fabiano was ejected from the game when he bumped referee Luis Antônio Silva dos Santos after receiving a yellow card. Minutes later, Flamengo would capitalize as Willian Arão would knock in the header off the corner kick to tie the game at 1-1.
At the 64th-minute Flamengo would take the lead when Berrío launched a long-range shot from the edge of the goal area that found the back of the net for the 2-1 lead.
As the game entered extra time with Flamengo ahead, it appeared Vasco’s 2017 Taça Rio season would be coming to an end. Then, referee Dos Santos would again make his presence felt in the game when he called a penalty on Flamengo’s Renê for blocking the ball with his hand (replays would later show that the ball actually deflected off of Renê’s stomach).
On the ensuing penalty kick, Nenê scored past a diving Muralha to secure a 2-2 draw and save Vasco’s season.
With the draw, Flamengo remains atop Group B, with ten points three points ahead of Nova Iguaçu, Botafogo and Boavista, all tied with seven points. Vasco meanwhile survives to fight for a semifinals spot at fourth-place in Group C, three points behind leader Fluminense.
Both clubs will be back in action this week for the fifth round of the Taça Rio, with Flamengo taking on Volta Redonda on Wednesday, March 29th, and Vasco meeting up with Boavista, on Thursday, March 30th.