By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In the 36th round, Vasco comfortably dispatched Avaí to send them down to Série B, whilst Flamengo recorded a second goalless draw in four days and Botafogo sunk to their fourth straight defeat. Fluminense thrashed Figueirense on Sunday night to book their place in the 2012 Copa Libertadores. Fred scored his second successive hat-trick as the number nine moved onto twenty strikes in the Brasileirão this term.
A Felipe stunner briefly put Vasco at the top of the pile on Saturday night after a 2-0 win over Avaí at São Januário. After a tense opening period where some dogged Avaí defending kept Vasco at bay, second half goals from Felipe and Elton sent the 20,000 fans inside the stadium into delirium.
Avai’s cause had not been helped by Júnior Urso’s red card after just twenty minutes, but they succeeded in stifling Vasco until Felipe’s delicious curler with the outside of his right boot breached the dam. Bernardo entered the field in place of Éder Luis and the youngster had a hand in Vasco’s second, crossing for Élton to head home.
Corinthians’ 2-1 victory over Atlético-MG meant Vasco dropped back down to second. But next up is a crunch classico against in-form Fluminense; defeat would see their title challenge ended.
Fluminense warmed up for next week’s derby with a 4-0 demolition of high-flyers Figueirense, ending the Flórianopolis club’s fourteen game unbeaten run. After an even first half, a Marquinho strike and Fred hat-trick did the damage in the second when Flu’s rapid pass-and-move football tore their hosts to shreds.
Figueirense had won six of their last seven matches, but Nense held no fear as they went for their opponents’ jugular with velocity and offensive impetus. Rafael Sóbis missed an incredible chance to put the Tricolor ahead before the interval, shooting tamely at Wilson.
In the end it hardly mattered. Fred scored two in the first ten minutes of the second half, the first a powerful angled drive before converting Carlinhos’ low cross.
Figueirense enjoyed periods of possession but failed to test Cavalieri once and with twenty minutes to go Fluminense wrapped up the points. Fred – who else – found Deco who teed up Marquinho to add the third.
In the dying stages, teenager Lanzini’s sublime lobbed pass allowed Fred to volley home for his seventh goal in his last two games. The hitman was the toast of the evening.
Internacional triumphed 2-1 over Botafogo at the Engenhão to move into the top four and leave Fogão floundering. A Leandro Damião goal deep in first half stoppage-time, followed by an exquisite move set up by Andrezinho and finished by Oscar, left the side with a mountain to climb.
Felipe Menezes halved the deficit shortly afterwards, but in the week Botafogo sacked coach Caio Junior the club lack more direction than ever. What once looked an assured Libertadores place is now increasingly unlikely.
Two tame Flamengo performances have left the Rubro-Negro outside the top five. On Thursday, only a missed Figueirense penalty allowed Mengão to escape with a goalless draw.
They repeated the scoreline on Sunday away to Atlético-GO, without ever looking like the flair side president Patricia Amorim promised when Ronaldinho arrived in January. A move to Greek side Panathinaikos beckons for the former World Player of the Year – based on his latest performances, Flamenguistas may be glad to see the back of him. Flamengo have now gone three matches without finding the back of the net.