By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This weekend saw all of the “big four” in action, with Botafogo beating local rivals Fluminense 1-0 on Saturday, May 11th, followed by Flamengo seeing off Chapecoense 2-1 on Sunday, May 12th, and Vasco da Gama being beaten 3-0 by Santos.
The weekend kicked off with a local derby – Botafogo and Fluminense both headed down to the Maracanã looking to build on their previous match’s victory. However, it was Botafogo who stole the afternoon with a delightful piece of team play that saw Alex Santana head the ball into the Fluminense top corner after the seventy-first minute.
Fluminense came tantalizingly close to equalizing when their goal was disallowed in the eighty-second minute, as the referee, aided by VAR (video assistant referee) correctly overturned Matheus Ferraz’s headed goal for an earlier offside infringement.
Botafogo, who performed dismally in the Campeonato Carioca, have now won the first Rio clássico (local derby) of the year.
While Fluminense can take heart in their creation of ample chances to win this game, with twenty-three shots and six shots on goal, double their oppenents. However, today luck favored Botafogo, who briefly rose to second in the league following this victory.
Flamengo was the first team from Rio to kick-off on Sunday when they took on Chapecoense, also at the Maracanã. The team from Santa Catarina faced a Flamengo side that lacked almost all of their starting eleven, who were still recovering from their 0-0 draw against Peñarol in Uruguay last Wednesday.
However, even without their big names, Flamengo cruised to victory. Vitinho scored after seven minutes after latching on to a beautiful through-ball courtesy of Trauco. Six minutes into the second half, the rubro-negro made it 2-0 after a nicely-poached goal from Lincoln, who connected with Ronaldo’s low cross.
Chapecoense managed to get one back two minutes into stoppage time, but it was too little, too late. Flamengo could have won by more, though despite Diego having his penalty saved in the forty-fifth minute and some controversial decisions from the referee, the match showed the quality and depth of the Flamengo squad.
The final match of the weekend for Rio’s teams saw Vasco da Gama thumped 3-0 by Santos at the Urbano Caldeira stadium. Santos, who now go joint top with Palmeiras, looked thoroughly in control throughout Sunday’s game.
The first goal came after eighteen minutes when Santos took advantage of a terrible goalkeeping error, which saw Vasco keeper Sidão lose the ball in his own area. Santos player Diego Pituca brought the ball under control and calmly lobbed the red-faced keeper.
Vasco, with one of their only chances of the game, were close to drawing level when Maxi López saw his goal ruled out by the VAR due to an alleged infringement.
Santos then doubled their lead after thirty-two minutes, with some more shocking Vasco defending being exploited by Rodrygo, who darted between two defenders and smashed the ball into the Vasco goal.
The joint league leaders then consolidated their victory with a third goal after seventy-two minutes. Rodrygo virtually waltzed through the Vasco defense once again, leaving Soteldo to strike the ball home and finish the game 3-0.