by Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Vasco da Gama and Fluminense faced off in a goal fest in front of a packed Maracanã stadium on Sunday evening. Fans also witnessed the debut of Tricolor new boy Deco, who came on for the last twenty minutes to round off an exciting week at the club that also saw Argentine playmaker Dario Conca confirm his allegiance to the club despite heavy interest from Portuguese champions Porto.
“I am very happy here [at Fluminense],” Conca told sports newspaper Lance! “I was aware of Porto’s interest, but I always wanted to stay here. I have found myself at Flu,” he added.
Flamengo lost by a single goal against Atlético Paranaense and the defending champions have now scored just once in their last five games, and will up their efforts to sign Brazilian striker Deivid from Fenerbache. On Saturday, Botafogo defeated Avaí to move above their local rivals into third place.
Botafogo 1-0 Avaí
The hosts did not have it all their own way infront of 35,000 cheering fans, as Avaí, well drilled this season under coach Antônio Lopes, soaked up the pressure and launched quick counter attacks. Botafogo continued to press their visitors, and in the 31st minute were rewarded when defender Fabio Ferreira converted Maicosuel’s in-swinging free kick with a glancing header. Avaí introduced attacking midfielder Leandro Bonfim at the break, and immediately looked more creative, while containing Botafogo attackers Jobson and Maicosuel at the other end. Twice they nearly equalized, but a reaction save from Jefferson and a last-ditch tackle from Marcelo Cordeiro saved the day for the Carioca club.
Atlético PR 1-0 Flamengo
A goal eight minutes from time sank Flamengo hearts and resigned them to a second defeat in three games. Flamengo again bordered on incompetence in the finishing department, despite the most valiant of efforts from midfield duo Petkovic and Renato to dictate the tempo of the game. As they increasingly began to look bereft of ideas, Paranaense took the initiative, and stole the points when Manoel latched onto a searching pass from Paulo Baier to bury the chance along with Flamengo’s hopes.
Vasco 2-2 Fluminense
Rarely has a game swung so freely to-and-fro, and this match was a true spectacle for the 80,000 fans inside the Maracana, which resembled something similar to a ninety minute carnival as the party took off.
Gum gave Fluminense the lead on six minutes, who shot a rebound with force beyond Fernando Prass after the goalkeeper saved his strong header. Vasco were far from overwhelmed however, and responded with some open, attacking football. They were rewarded on 37 minutes when Eder Luis latched onto a pin-point pass from strike partner Carlos Alberto and rolled the ball home.
The second half started where the first left off, and within ninety seconds Vasco were in front. Carlos Alberto was again the provider, setting up full back Fagner, who arrived from deep to shoot beyond Fernando Henrique and into the bottom left hand corner of the net.
Fluminense responded on the hour mark when the lively Emerson Sheik robbed Felipe and sent Julio Cesar through on goal, who finished confidently. As a last throw of the dice, Muricy Ramalho decided to bring on the debutante Deco for the last twenty minutes, and he had a golden opportunity to become an instant hero with just minutes left, but his shot from ten yards flew high over the bar.
Fluminense now travel to lowly Goias on Wednesday night and will be confident of returning to winning ways, while Vasco, who are in equally impressive form, face a trip to the Morumbi to play an out of sorts São Paulo.