By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday, April 16th, at Nilton Santos Stadium (Engenhão) Vasco shutout Botafogo 2-0 to win the 2017 Taça Rio, the second stage of the Campeonato Carioca. With goals from Douglas and Luis Fabiano, Vasco is now the team with the most victories in the tournament, with ten Taça Rio titles.
Both teams earned their spot in Sunday’s finals as a result of last weekend’s semi-finals, involving all of Rio’s big four clubs. Vasco drew 0-0 with Flamengo, but advanced due to the club having had the superior record in this year’s Taça Rio campaign. Meanwhile, Botafogo advanced after soundly defeating Fluminense 3-1.
Sunday’s game got off to a slow start and was a clear contrast in styles. Vasco was the more aggressive club, probing for shot opportunities, while Botafogo seemed content to sit back on defense and play for counterattacks.
The opposing styles led to few offensive opportunities and for the first 45 minutes, goalkeepers Martín Silva and Hélton Leite were not much more than uniformed spectators on the pitch.
It was more of the same for the start of the second half, until eighteen minutes into the period when Botafogo’s Marcelo received his second yellow card for tripping Guilherme.
Following Marcelo’s expulsion, both clubs started to play with more urgency, creating several scoring chances. In contrast to the first period, great saves from Silva and Leite kept the game scoreless going late into the second period.
Finally, at the 41st minute of the second half, Vasco broke the stalemate. Off a Vasco corner kick, the ball bounced off several Botafogo defenders and into the waiting foot of Douglas who promptly knocked the ball past Leite for the 1-0 lead.
Following regulation, five minutes of stoppage time were added and Vasco would strike again. At the 47-minute mark of the second half, both Guilherme and Luis Fabiano streaked past a flatfooted Botafogo defense. Fabiano scored easily off a perfect pass from Guilherme, to seal the game and the Taça Rio title for Vasco.
With the victory, Vasco becomes the winningest team in the Taça Rio, with ten Taça Rio championships, one more than Flamengo.
Despite the outcome of Sunday’s Taça Rio final, the result has no effect on next weekend’s Campeonato Carioca semifinals where Rio’s big four will once again battle it out.
On Saturday, April 22nd, Fluminense takes on Vasco, and on Sunday, April 23rd, Flamengo faces Botafogo to decide the two clubs who will duel for this year’s Campeonato Carioca championship.