By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Flamengo unveiled new striker Adriano for the first time since his transfer from Inter Milan earlier this year and his goal helped make it two wins out of two for the team, sending them up to 6th in the table.
Fluminense were on the cusp of a solid away win against Nautico in Recife, but a controversial penalty deep into injury time prevented them from grabbing a precious three points, while Botafogo struggled to a third draw of the campaign having gone 2 x 0 down at home to Sport and still seek their first win of the season.
Flamengo 2 x 1 Atletico-PR: The Maracana was in full swing even before kick off as Adriano donned the black and red shirt for the first time since his high profile move from Italian champions Inter Milan. His highly anticipated debut did not disappoint as the ‘Imperador’ sealed victory with a second half goal. Juan was in fine form in Flamengo’s midfield, and after 15 minutes he crossed the ball looking for Adriano, only for Antonio Carlos to put the ball into his own net under close pressure from the striker.
The second half belonged to the home side and their debutante. Within moments of the restart Leo Moura arrived from defense to cross the ball and in his trademark style Adriano fended off one defender with a strong shoulder to leave him unmarked, converting a relatively simple header and wild celebrations. Only a clumsy penalty given away by Toro threatened the victory, but Flamengo responded strongly to the slight setback and as the game drew to a close only some good defending from the visitors prevented them from scoring more.
Nautico 1 x 1 Fluminense: It was certainly not a classic encounter in Recife, but the home side, still unbeaten in the league this year, looked frail as Fred, Fluminense’s star striker, finally got his first goal of the campaign after ten minutes with a confident finish. That goal settled the Carioca outfit who had been subjected to horrific abuse at their training ground in midweek, and Thiago Neves was unlucky not to double the lead when he crashed the ball against Eduardo’s near post.
During the second period Nautico began to improve and only the athleticism of Ricardo Berna – standing in for suspended goalkeeper Fernando Henrique – maintained the visitor’s slender advantage. As the game neared the final whistle his defense failed to clear their lines and Maicon was caught in possession inside his own area. When the midfielder battled to win back the ball, the Nautico player went down theatrically and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. With 49 minutes on the clock Gilmar converted to tie the game at 1 x 1.
Botafogo 2 x 2 Sport: Only a late Fahel strike prevented the angry home crowd from turning on their team on Saturday. Within 6 minutes of the start Sport scored with their first attack when a fine run from Weldon saw Botafogo goalkeeper Castillo race off his line, only for the winger to slip the ball through to the waiting Wilson who tapped it in unchallenged. That woke up the home team, but another good Sport move opened up the home side’s defense again on 20 minutes. This time it was Weldon on hand to side-foot home from close range under no real pressure.
As the fans turned on the team they slowly improved, with Juninho striking the post from a vicious free kick, but it wasn’t until the second half that they managed to actually find the net. With 15 minutes gone Tony arrived at the far post to smash the ball home and provide hope of taking at least a point from the game. Sport were reduced to ten men with the sending off of Hamilton on the half hour, and from then on Botafogo dominated, the visitors happy to sit back and try to defend their slender advantage. It was from a Juninho corner that Lucio Flavio rose highest to head home and make it 2 x 2 at the end.
Next weekend sees the first local Rio derby of the Campeonato Brasileiro 2009 as Botafogo take on Fluminense at Maracana in what is sure to be a classic and hard-fought encounter, with Botafogo having had the better of the Tricolor in recent matches. The game kicks off on Sunday at 6:30PM, while Flamengo travel to Recife to take on Sport that same afternoon.