By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Fluminense have one hand on the Brasileiro crown after coming from behind on Sunday to beat Palmeiras. Their two rivals for the title, Corinthians and Cruzeiro, also recorded victories in round 37, leaving the Laranjeiras outfit a point clear with a hopefully easy home game against eighteenth ranked Guarani on Sunday.
Two Carioca teams went down to Fluminense’s championship competitors, Vasco losing to Corinthians, and Flamengo, its season petering out with a whimper, losing at home to Cruzeiro. Botafogo secured a straightforward win over Gremio Prudente.
Palmeiras 1-2 Fluminense
Fluminense got off to the worst possible start in the Arena Bureri, falling behind in just the fourth minute. Striker Dinei picked the ball up on the inside right channel, before cutting in and kicking from 30 yards away. The ball swung dangerously, and before Ricardo Berna had a chance to take stock of the swerve, the ball had nestled into the far corner of his goal.
Conca tried to inject spark into Flu’s attacks, but the Palmeiras defense constantly doubled up on the playmaker, and his effectiveness was limited. Emerson Sheik, who had been in such fine form before a serious thigh injury, missed an open goal, somehow managing to lift the ball over the bar.
It was left to Carlinhos to level the score with a strike that matched Dinei’s opener. He brought the ball up the left wing before moving inside and curling in a fine shot with his right foot. Fluminense then proceeded to dominate the rest of the opening period, Fred going close with a free kick and a header, which Palmeiras keeper Deola did well to tip over.
Fluminense started the second half as they ended the first, and it was only Fred’s wastefulness in front of the goal that kept the score even. Muricy Ramalho gambled by bringing on a third striker in the form of Tarta, and just five minutes later the substitute gave Flu the lead, calmly slotting home through a crowd of players. The visitors were still hungry for more, and Carlinhos went close with a well struck kick before Palmeiras gave the league leaders a late scare, but Flu survived to earn a hugely important three points.
Corinthians 2-0 Vasco
Corinthians stayed a point behind Fluminense with a comfortable victory in the Pacaembu. The game had been even until the 39th minute, when Bruno Cesar’s long range effort was unfortunately turned into his own goal by Dede. Veteran Roberto Carlos had a fine game, going close early in the second half before setting up the second for Danilo. The left back put over an inch perfect cross, and the striker was left with a simple header from four yards.
Flamengo 1-2 Cruzeiro
Flamengo surrendered an early lead as Cruzeiro kept the pressure on Fluminense and Corinthians. In the ninth minute, Diego Mauricio latched onto Diogo’s slide-rule pass and lifted the ball over Cruzeiro ‘keeper Fabio into the top left hand corner of the goal.
Six minutes later, Roger equalized with a fortuitous free-kick, after the ball took a wicked deflection off the wall, rendering Marcelo Lomba helpless. Lomba made an acrobatic save early in the second half to keep out a bicycle kick from Wellington Paulista, but could do nothing about Thiago Ribeiro’s header midway through the second half to take the points back to Minas Gerais.
Botafogo 3-1 Gremio Prudente
Botafogo kept their hopes of qualifying for the Copa Libertadores alive with an authoritative performance. Lucio Falvio had already wasted two good chances before Antonio Carlos headed Botafogo into the lead at the half hour mark.
Just before the interval, Edno doubled the home side’s advantage with a stunning 25 yard kick that flew into the top corner. Willian Jose pulled a goal back for Prudente with a powerful kick from outside the area, but Marcelo Cordeira wrapped up victory in injury time from the penalty spot.