By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Vasco climbed into the top four in the Série A after two wins in rounds ten and eleven in the national Brasileiro tournament which, started in May and runs until December. The last two rounds were a mixed bag for Flu, picking up a loss and a win. Flamengo remained undefeated after two consecutive draws while Botafogo’s good form took a blow with two defeats.
Last week also saw the transfer window close, sparking a mad rush of signatures across Brazil. Rio’s biggest movers on deadline day were Fluminense, who brought in Brazilian international Rafael Sobis on loan from UAE side Al Jazira. Argentine pair Martinuccio and Lanzini also joined from Penãrol and River Plate, respectively.
A brace from Alecsandro gave Vasco a 2-1 win over bottom club Atlético-PR last week. The Copa do Brasil champions were made to do things the hard way after falling behind as pressure and possession did not automatically translate into goals.
They had to wait until first-half injury-time to draw level, the number nine bundling home when Renan Rocha spilled Eder Luis’ long drive. Again, Juninho Pernambucano shone with touch and vision, but Eder Luis provided the winner, crossing for Alecsandro to produce the finishing touch.
A 2-1 away win against Atlético-MG elevated Vasco into the top four. Ex-Mineiro player Diego Souza did the damage with both goals either side of Magno Alves’ equalizer. A post-Copa hangover had left Vasco off the pace but three successive wins have left the club just eight points from the top.
Before Fluminense unveiled their new recruits, a dreadful 3-1 defeat at Coritiba left them a daunting sixteen points off league leaders Corinthians. Abel Braga found his side two goals down before the break and Coritiba added a third soon after the restart before Matheus Carvalho added a consolation.
But Flu’s luck changed on Sunday with a narrow 1-0 victory over Palmeiras. Attacking midfielder Marquinho was the hero of the day as he headed the game’s only goal twenty minutes from time.
On a poor playing surface Flu dominated the first half, going close through Fred, Deco and Diguinho before Diego Cavalieri beat away an effort from Maikon Leite. After the break, Braga switched to two up top, Ciro coming on for Souza.
With a stronger front-line, Nense’s goal threat increased and Marquinho had already had a goal wrongfully cancelled out before heading home Mariano’s cross.
Two draws halted Flamengo’s title push as they lost ground at the top of the league. A goalless draw against Palmeiras preceded one of the most controversial moments of the season so far.
Thiago Neves admitted after the match that he and Ronaldinho had deliberately picked up their third yellow cards of the season to serve a one game suspension against what they deemed “winnable opposition” Ceara. But the pair were left with egg on their face after the Rubro Negro could only muster a 1-1 draw.
Botafogo slumped to eighth after successive defeats, first being thoroughly outclassed as Corinthians dispatched them 2-0. Caio Junior’s offensive gameplan could not take shape as the Paulistas controlled ball possession before taking the lead just before the interval when Liedson steered in a low cross.
After the break, Corinthians exerted yet more pressure with threatening counters as huge spaces were left in search of an equalizer. Deep into injury-time, Paulinho added the second to end any potential fight back.
Things went from bad to worse on Saturday when they slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Atlético-PR. Careless marking allowed Atlético to take an unassailable two goal lead. Despite pulling one back, no return in two games has seen the side slip from the upper reaches.