By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Vasco are just two matches away from a place in the Copa Libertadores and their first major trophy in eight years. Wednesday, June 1st Vasco play the first leg of the Copa do Brasil final in São Januario Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, against Coritiba. Last week, Vasco defeated Avai 3-1 on aggregate after a 2-0 win away in Florianopolis to book their place in the final.
The party is immense for the Vascainas; in recent years, they have been considered the “minnows” of Rio’s traditional “Big Four” (Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco). Now, under the astute guidance of Ricardo Gomes, they are very much back in the big time.
Vasco put in a magnificent performance away to Avai, having drawn the first leg 1-1 at home. They raced out of the blocks and took the lead after just four minutes when Felipe’s venomous in-swinging free-kick was headed into his own goal by Revson.
What followed was a Vasco bombardment as they swamped their hosts with quick-paced passing football. Allan, Felipe and twice Eder Luis went close to adding to Vasco’s advantage.
Only the heroics of Renan in the Avai goal was keeping the score line respectable, not to mention Avai in the tie. His finest save came from right back Allan’s fierce cross-shot, which appeared to be heading in at the near post.
Realizing he had no time to get his hands to the ball, Renan threw his entire body at the ball, managing to keep it out with his feet. At times, the goalkeeper was a one man defense and it just could not last. The second goal came in the 34th minute and was a piece of craftsmanship the greats would have been proud of.
Vasco surged down upon the Avai goal for the umpteenth time. Alescandro had two options as he carried the ball forward; Eder Luis to his right, Diego Souza to his left. A neat reverse pass found the ball at the feet of the latter. Renan sensed yet more danger and raced from his goal line. Souza had no time to shoot and quickly dinked the ball over the advancing keeper. The ball bounced gently over the line to put Vasco out of sight.
Ricardo Gomes’ men have now gone an astonishing nineteen games unbeaten (excluding a penalty shoot-out defeat) and few would begrudge them their day in the sun. Their successful run has not gone unnoticed in Europe, and rumors are sweeping across the globe that French outfit Bordeaux are ready to reappoint Gomes as coach. The former central defender was Bordeaux coach from 2005-2007.
With Vasco’s biggest game in recent history just around the corner, the last thing they need is European sides circling, hoping to pick apart their squad. However, last Sunday, after the club’s 3-0 win over America-MG, Ricardo Gomes moved to reassure fans he wasn’t going anywhere.
“I know the club [Bordeaux] well, I know the president, I know what their intentions are, but my mind is totally on Vasco. Today I am only thinking of Vasco, of the Copa do Brasil and the Brasilerão,” Gomes confirmed.
Happy days indeed for the Vascainas. Brighter times could be just a few days away.