By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – And then there were two. On Sunday, April 30th, Rio de Janeiro’s top two football (soccer) clubs, Flamengo and Fluminense, faced off at iconic Maracanã Stadium in the first of two matches to decide the winner of the 2017 Campeonato Carioca.
In front of 40,000-plus fans, Flamengo showed it was the superior team on Sunday, outplaying Fluminense on both sides of the ball, offense and defense, to take the opener 1-0.
Flamengo looked sharp from the opening whistle. The Rubro-Negra barely missed on a goal attempt from Everton only five minutes in thanks to a diving save from Flu keeper Diego Cavalieri. Cavalieri had a busy first period, having to make another game-saving block on Mancuello only several minutes later.
Despite Cavalieri’s heroics, a grave misstep from one of his teammates allowed Flamengo to break the game open. At the 33-minute mark, as Fluminense’s Renato Chaves casually attempted to clear the ball out of his own goal area, the defender inexplicably whiffed on the kick.
The ball dropped squarely at the feet of an alert Everton who pounced on the loose ball, easily knocking it past a helpless Cavalieri to give Flamengo the 1-0 lead.
In the second period, it would be Flamengo’s defense that would be tested as Fluminense came out of the break as the aggressors. Richarlison barely missed tying the game fourteen minutes into the period when his shot attempt got past a leaping Muralha only to hit the top of the crossbar.
As the clock ticked down, another highlight-reel save from Cavalieri, prevented Flamengo from doubling its lead. But, it would be too little too late, as Flamengo’s defense would hold strong, keeping Fluminense off the scoreboard and securing the 1-0 win.
With the victory, Flamengo enters next Sunday’s (May 7th) finale with a substantial advantage. The Rubro-Negra only need a draw to raise the Campeonato Carioca trophy.
Fluminense, on the other hand, must win the match by at least two goals to guarantee the championship. If Flu wins by only one goal, the match would go to penalty kicks to decide the 2017 Campeonato Carioca champion.