By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – There were two rounds of the Brasileirao this week, and both games saw Rio’s teams fail to take an opportunity to change their ailing fortunes in the league. The top of the table continues to be dominated by three teams, Internacional, Palmeiras, and surprise leaders Atletico-MG who have been beaten just once in their opening twelve games.
Fluminense are in dire straights at the foot of the table just one point ahead of Nautico who lie at the bottom. The two sides thrashed it out in the relegation zone last year only narrowly avoiding the drop, and it looks like the 2009 season may well see a repeat of that decidedly sticky situation.
It is just 2 points from a possible 21 since their last win almost two months ago against local rivals Botafogo, the kind of form that has seen numerous coaches linked with the top job at the club. Current favorite is Renato Gaucho, the man who nearly brought Libertadores glory in 2008, but who ultimately oversaw Vasco da Gama’s first relegation in their history the very same season.
In the two matches this week Fluminense conceded eight goals, going down 4 x 2 away to Internacional on Wednesday night and 1 x 4 at home to Goias on Saturday. If the first result was understandable given the two side’s current league standings, the second, in front of their own fans at The Maracanã, was unforgivable.
Flamengo managed only a point from their two games this week, dropping down to tenth in the league and heaping yet more pressure on controversial manager Cuca who has been in charge at all three Carioca clubs in recent years, much to the suspicion of many fans as to where his loyalties lie.
Such loyalties play little part in the Brasileirao though, and the man who took Flamengo to state championship glory earlier this year will be on his way out of the door if something is not done soon to bring some vital wins.
Continuing to rely too heavily on the goals of Adriano, it was in fact Emerson who grabbed a late draw to break Botafogo’s hearts on Sunday night with two minutes left after the Foguense had been reduced to nine men with their goalkeeper Castillo and defender Wellington sent off in a spectacular match that finished 2 x 2.
On Wednesday Flamengo lost to second-placed Palmeiras 1 x 2 after a masterful display by midfielder Diego Souza for which the rubro-negro had no answer.
Botafogo will not play their eleventh round match against Cruzeiro until next month because of their opponents’ Copa Libertadores match last week, so the late 2 x 2 draw with Flamengo was a missed opportunity to grab the three points that would have seen them clear of the bottom four.
Coach Ney Franco remains ever confident that his side runs no risk of relegation this season despite their current seventeenth position and assures fans they will soon put together a run of form to see them back in contention for the Copa Sul-Americana qualification places at the very least.
The next round throws up some interesting contests in midweek, with Fluminense traveling to Atletico-MG in what is sure to be a grueling match against the top club and a very difficult place to arrest their run of defeats. Botafogo take on Nautico in Recife in a crucial relegation clash that could consign one of the clubs to the foot of the table, whilst Flamengo will host Barueri at The Maracanã – the surprise success so far this season, the Serie A newcomers are currently five places and five points ahead of their famous opponents.