By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Fluminense let first place in the Brasilerão slip from their grasp with a draw against Botafogo on Sunday. It proved an action packed week for the Laranjeiras outfit after the CBF identified coach Muricy Ramalho as the man they wanted to take charge of the national side from Dunga.
The club’s directors refused to release Ramalho from his contract, forcing the CBF to appoint Corinthians boss Mano Menezes, to the relief of Fluminense fans happy with their team’s start to the season under the new coach.
Flamengo’s unbeaten record after the World Cup ended with a draw against Avai and defeat to Inter, but Vasco’s resurgence continued apace and Botafogo staged strong comebacks to snatch a point against both Palmeiras and Fluminense.
Flamengo 1-1 Avai
Flamengo slipped up with a 1-1 draw against Avai in the Maracanã after young striker Diego Mauricio gave the Rubra Negro the lead in the tenth minute, finishing off a slick passing move. Despite dominating from there on, their carelessness in front of goal was punished fifteen minutes from time when Gabriel scored an exquisite free-kick to earn the visitors a point.
Gremio 1-1 Vasco
Vasco secured a point despite a soaked Olimpico pitch, where a torrential downpour left it virtually unplayable. Both goals came in the opening ten minutes, when the pitch still had some life in it, with Vasco striker Nunes putting the Rio side ahead after six minutes, before Jonas equalized for the hosts.
Fluminense 1-0 Cruzeiro
After Corinthians surprisingly lost 3-1 to bottom side Ateltcio-GO on Wednesday night, 34,000 Flu fans turned out to see if their team could go top of the league, but it was Cruzeiro, led by former Fluminense coach Cuca, who had the better of the first half. Strong words from boss Muricy Ramalho at half time fired the team up for the restart, and defender Leandro Euzebio headed the only goal of the game in the 53rd minute to send Fluminense top.
Palmerias 2-2 Botafogo
Botafogo again failed to collect three points, but their fans were delighted with a spirited comeback from two goals down to salvage a draw in the Pacaembu. All four goals came in a pulsating opening half hour; first Marcos Assunção and Kleber helped Palmeiras race into a 2-0 lead after seventeen minutes then Botafogo fought back with goals of their own from newly returned Jobson, who ran himself into the ground for his side, and defender Antonio Carlos.
Vasco 2-0 Atletico-GO
Vasco’s upturn in form continued on Saturday evening with a comfortable victory over Atlético-GO in São Januário stadium. Knowing that three points were vital to put some distance between themselves and the bottom of the table, the players duly obliged. Midfielder Nilton opened the scoring in the 33rd minute with a wonderful curling effort from the edge of the area before Fumagalli made sure of the win early in the second half.
Internacional 1-0 Flamengo
Flamengo drew a blank in Porto Alegre as Internacional moved three points clear of them in fourth place. Hot property Taison, who has been linked with a move to Spanish side Valencia, scored with a 25 yard strike into the top right hand corner of the net after just five minutes. Mengo had little to offer in reply, and a new striker must be a priority if they are to defend their title.
Botafogo 1-1 Fluminense
Fluminense let the lead slip, and with it first place in the league, again looking nervous in the first half before becoming a stronger force in the second. Debutant Emerson Sheik scored the opener on the hour mark, linking up nicely with strike partner Fred before rounding Botafogo keeper Jefferson and rolling the ball home. But Tricolor hearts were broken after 75 minutes when substitute Renato equalized for the home side. The game ended in fiery mood, as Somalia and Danny Morais saw red for Botafogo, and Tiaguinho was sent off for Fluminense.