By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Vasco comfortably saw off Botafogo on Sunday evening to remain level on points with Corinthians at the top of the national football (soccer) tournament, the Brasileirão. With Fluminense, Flamengo and Botafogo all tasting defeat over the weekend, the remaining four rounds of the league has in all reality left them too steep a mountain to climb to reach the title.
Fluminense put in a dreadful performance to lose 2-1 at home to previously bottom side América-MG at the Engenhão. It was undoubtedly the side’s worst display under coach Abel Braga and leaves the club five points off the top with only four matches left.
Anyone watching the teams for the first time would have thought roles reversed, and the visitors were chasing the Brasileirão crown as they ran rings around a clueless Fluminense midfield. Only the excellent Cavalieri kept América at bay, but could do nothing when Kemoes once again broke free from Elivélton and finished clinically.
Flu upped the tempo in the second-half but still didn’t manage to put a sustained period of pressure together. América’s Alessandro showed Fred and Sóis how to finish properly, doubling the visitors’ lead with a little over ten minutes remaining.
Rafael Moura pulled a goal back for the hosts but their inexplicable lack of offensive presence persisted until the end. Braga was left fuming with this players and brooding over a golden opportunity missed.
Flamengo’s title challenge is all but over after a 2-0 defeat at Coritiba. The hosts controlled the entirety, barely giving the Rubro-Negro a sniff, and two goals in the space of six first-half minutes killed the game as any sort of contest.
Leonardo gave Coritiba the lead on the half-hour when poor marking from Renato allowed the striker time and space to tap home from close range.
Barely before Flamengo had time to recollect themselves, they were two down. The energetic Maranhão nicked the ball from a slower Ronaldinho and surged past a seemingly disinterested Renato before shooting powerfully from range.
The shot took a deflection off David Braz and beat Felipe in the Flamengo goal. Try as they might, Flamengo created nothing in the second-half and as the game ran out 24,000 Coritiba fans sang “Olé!” as their players passed the ball with ease around their jaded opponents, who now have not won in the Paranense capital for thirteen years.
Dedé put in a man-of-the-match performance as Vasco defeated Botafogo 2-0. The win took Vasco to 61 points, level with Corinthians who beat Atlético-PR, leaving both sides five points clear of third placed Fluminense.
For Botafogo, it was their fourth defeat in five games in a submissive performance. The side dropped to fifth with just a Libertadores place now to fight for.
For the first ten minutes Fogão had the advantage, starting at a quick pace and stringing together rapid passes and coherent attacks. But Vasco began to look dangerous on the counter, and it was from such a move that they took the lead after fifteen minutes.
Allan found Eder Luis down the right, who pulled the ball back to the edge of the area for Fellipe Bastos to rifle home. The goal spurred on Vasco, who slowly took the game away from Botafogo, and would have doubled their lead but for Diego Souza’s feeble penalty.
Dedé, as always, was magnificent, giving Loco Abreu no space in which to work. And on the hour mark, he sealed victory for his side with a bullet header from Fellipe Bastos’ cross.
Botafogo looked helpless in the eye of a heavy Vasco storm, and not even Rômulo’s sending-off helped their cause. Remaining calm, Vasco played keep-ball and saw out the game with ease.