By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – It was a busy night on Wednesday, May 31st, for local football (soccer) fans as two of Rio’s big four clubs took the pitch to try to secure a spot in the upcoming 2017 Copa do Brasil (Brazil Cup) quarter-finals.
By night’s end, Fluminense‘s run in the Copa do Brasil would come to an end falling 2-0 to Grêmio, while Botafogo punched its ticket to the quarter-finals with a 1-1 draw with Sport Recife.
For Fluminense, facing off against the 2016 Copa do Brasil champions, Grêmio, at Maracanã, it was a must-win game after having already lost the first match between the two clubs, last Wednesday (May 17th), 3-1.
Unfortunately for Flu fans, the deciding moment of the match came only four minutes after the opening whistle when Flu lost key defender Nogueira. Nogueira was kicked from the game after taking down Grêmio’s Luan from behind on a breakaway.
With the defense now fully exposed, the defending champs took advantage of the extra spacing, scoring on a long-range shot from Luan at the 17-minute mark. Grêmio scored again only ten minutes later as Pedro Rocha got behind Flu’s defense for an easy goal. With Fluminense seemingly only playing out the clock, Grêmio pulled out the 2-0 win bringing Fluminense’s Copa do Brasil season to an end.
Later that night, Botafogo was at Ilha do Retiro in Recife taking on Sport Recife. Thanks to their 2-1 win in the first match on April 26th, Botafogo had the slight one-goal advantage entering last night’s back end game. And in the end, that advantage would loom large.
Botafogo attacker Roger would put the Lone Star on the board first with a beautiful goal from the right side. Botafogo would hold the 1-0 lead until midway through the second period when Durval would score on a header to tie the game at the 22nd minute.
After five minutes of stoppage time, Botafogo was able to hold on for the 1-1 draw and a guaranteed place in the Copa do Brasil quarter-finals.
On Monday, June 5th, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) competition committee will meet to schedule the draws and matchups for the Copa do Brasil quarter-finals.
The Copa do Brasil is a knockout tournament running from March to November that includes clubs from around Brazil competing in a series of home-away matches.