By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Wednesday, April 12th, Rio’s CR Flamengo football (soccer) club faced a must-win situation against Atlético Paranaense (Atlético-PR) in the third round of the 2017 Copa Libertadores Group stage.
In front of a sold-out Maracanã Stadium, the Rubro-Negra rose to the occasion defeating Atlético-PR, 2-1, launching the club into the top position in its group.
In its last game in the Copa Libertadores, Flamengo suffered a 1-0 shutout loss to Chile’s Universidad Católica. As a result, Flamengo dropped to the precarious third position of Group 4, behind both Universidad Católica and fellow Brazilian club, Atletico-PR. Following Group stage play, only the top two teams of each group advance to the Copa Libertadores’ Round of 16.
With Flamengo only making their third appearance at Maracanã in 2017,
Nação Rubro-Negra (Flamengo fans) came out in full force last night. The 50,500 tickets made available for last night’s game sold out in less than 24 hours.
And those fans who came out in the rain were rewarded early for their efforts. Only six minutes in, a Trauco pass led Paolo Guerrero into the heart of Atlético-PR’s defense. Guerrero split through two defenders and as keeper Weverton blocked the ball, Guerrero deftly intercepted the ricochet and scored on a header for the game’s first goal.
Following the goal and with the now hysterical crowd behind them, Flamengo would keep the pressure on. Only nine minutes later, at the fifteen-minute mark, the club would double its lead when Diego launched a long-range rocket past a diving Weverton for the 2-0 lead.
Soon after the half-time break, Atlético-PR would finally get on the scoreboard when Nikão received a beautiful pass from Douglas Coutinho and scored from close-range at the 60th minute, cutting the lead in half.
Some anxious moments for Flamengo in the game’s remaining minutes, but Atlético-PR was unable to convert on a couple of scoring opportunities. After five minutes of stoppage time, Flamengo was able to hold on for the 2-1 win.
Thanks to last night’s victory over Atlético-PR, combined with Universidad Católica’s 1-0 loss to San Lorenzo, Flamengo has leapfrogged both teams to take over the top position in Group 4.
The Rubro-Negra must now turn its attention to the Campeonato Carioca, where the club will face off against Botafogo in the semi-finals on Sunday, April 23rd.