By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Vasco and Fluminense took three points in the eleventh round of the 2012 Campeonato Brasileirão to stay close to Atlético-MG in the race for first. Vasco comfortably beat Santos and Fu edged past Ponte Preta with a late penalty, whilst Flamengo and Botafogo both tasted defeat.
On Saturday, Vasco dominated and defeated Santos 2-0 at São Januário. Alecsandro scored his seventh goal of the campaign against a listless Santos side who missed the creativity of Ganso and the deadly accuracy of Neymar.
Vasco took the lead early on through Douglas’ close-range finish and controlled the game throughout the first half. When the whistle for the interval came, Santos had not managed a single shot on goal.
Santos coach Muricy Ramalho made changes at the break but before they had a chance to come to fruition Vasco had put the game beyond doubt. Juninho swung in a corner and Alecsandro glanced in at the near post.
A good performance could not prevent Flamengo losing 1-0 to Cruzeiro in Minas Gerais. Borges headed the winner for the home side on an afternoon when Vagner Love missed enough chances to give the game to the Rubro-Negro.
Love and Adryan went close for Fla before Borges converted Ceará’s cross. The goal forced Flamengo to return more aggressive after the break. Ibson, Adryan and Hernane all went close before Marcelo Oliveira cleared off the line for Cruzeiro on a fortunate afternoon for the hosts. Meanwhile, pressure builds on Joel Santana.
There was bad news also for Botafogo as they lost 1-0 to Grêmio at the Engenhão. Fans filled the stadium to see Clarence Seedorf’s debut, but despite an encouraging performance from the veteran it was the Gaúchos who walked away with the points.
Another veteran, Grêmio’s Zé Roberto, decided the match early in the second half. His delightful cross was expertly volleyed home by Marcelo Moreno.
Botafogo battled but Grêmio’s defense stood strong. Vítor Junior and Elkeson both tested Marcelo Grohe as the keeper stood firm against everything the Alvinegro could throw at him.
The final minutes were continued Botafogo pressure but Grêmio’s house didn’t crumble. The 30,000 Botafoguenses there to see Seedorf inspire the side went home disappointed.
A late Fred penalty gave Fluminense a 2-1 victory over Ponte Preta. Thiago Neves had given the Cariocas the lead just before half-time before Ponte equalized seven minutes from time to seemingly take a share of the spoils.
But the 90th minute spot-kick, after Wellington Nem had been tripped, kept Flu in touch with the top two in the table. Flu remain the only undefeated side in the Brasileirão but face a real challenge to maintain their record tomorrow night (Wednesday), when they travel to Porto Alegre to face Grêmio.
Flu started with their fantastic quartet of Deco, Thiago Neves, Wellington Nem and Fred, but failed to create clear-cut chances until a dead-ball situation gave them the lead. Thiago Neves’ free-kick from the left took a deflection off Renê Junior and into the net.
As in previous games, having taken the lead Flu retreated, and in a repeat of the Botafogo classíco they conceded an equalizer. After going close four times Ferron finally netted from João Paulo’s cross. Tricolores looked set to drop more points from a winning position and fall further behind the league leaders, but there was a final sting in the tail for Ponte when Lazzaretti felled Nem inside the box. Fred did the rest.