By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Vasco hit four goals on Sunday to continue their march towards the semi-finals of the 2011 Taça Rio. The sixth round of matches saw wins for Flamengo and Fluminense, as the group stages reach a climax. Next week is the final round of league games before the knock-out matches start.
On Saturday, Flamengo beat Duque de Caxias 2-0 to climb into second place in Group A. The Rubro Negro looked to be heading for their fourth consecutive draw in until late goals from Renato and an own goal broke Duque’s dogged defense.
Since winning the Taca Guanabara, Flamengo have found goals difficult to come by and Saturday’s game was no exception. When faced with a team that is prepared to sit and wait for a moment of magic to break the deadlock, too often Flamengo are left scratching their heads.
Flamengo started the game strongly but lost impetus as Duque de Caxias stood strong and weathered the storm. Duque were prepared to sit tight and defend resolutely. Wanderley missed two glorious chances to give Flamengo the lead and paid at half time when he was substituted for Deivid.
Even with the change, the match followed the same script. Only when the Caxias defenders began to tire did Flamengo seize the initiative, Renato sending in a stinging effort from the edge of the area. A minute from the end, Renato’s cross was headed into his own net by Hamilton to wrap up the points.
Fluminense looked far stronger as they dispatched Volta Redonda 2-1. Emerson Sheik scored his first goal since December to give Flu every chance of qualifying for the semi-finals. Fluminense started with an avalanche of attacks, somehow squandering chance after chance. Fans began to wonder if it was to be their day as each one went begging.
But all fears were dashed with two goals in the first eleven minutes of the second half. Slick passing across Flu’s midfield cut open Volta. Souza found himself in space on the inside left and curled a delicious right footed effort into the top corner of the goal.
Before Redonda had time to recollect, they were two down, Emerson’s defelcted effort looping over goalkeeper Mauro’s head. The goals took the life out of Volta Redonda, who managed a consolation goal in injury time.
Vasco thrashed Bangu 4-0 to stay top of Group A. It was the return of Felipe, Vasco’s influential playmaker, that made the difference on a pulsating afternoon for the Vascainas. Spurred on by a boisterous crowd at São Januario stadium, Dede started the rout after being set up by Felipe.
The number six was again the orchestrator two minutes into the second half, teeing up Eder Luis. Two goals in two minutes midway through the half put paid to Bangu hopes. Fittingly, Felipe scored the fourth goal to put the icing on the cake .
At the Engenhao Stadium, Botafogo rescued a point after falling behind to draw 1-1 with Resende. The game began at a slow tempo, with Botafogo failing to find any cohesive rhythm for the first 45 minutes. Coach Caio Junior could not be surprised when Rogerio rose unmarked to head home from a corner.
In the second half Botafogo pressed desperately and their efforts were rewarded in the 65th minute when Antonio Carlos fired in an equalizer. The goal buoyed Fogao and they pressurized constantly for the remaining quarter of an hour, Herrera and Caio going close. However, a draw was the fair result.