By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Flamengo won a controversial clássico against Fluminense at the Maracanã, while Botafogo turned the game around against Série C club and surprise semifinal contender Madureira in the second but last round of the group phase of the Campeonato Carioca this weekend. The victories qualify both clubs already for the semifinals of the championship.
Flamengo against Fluminense is the game with probably the biggest rivalry in Brazil and always an emotional one. This weekend the match was marked first by unusual unity between the players of the two teams in a protest against the state federation FERJ.
The players wore signs of mourning and posed with their hands over their mouths in solidarity with Flamengo’s coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo, who had been suspended by the FERJ for two games for critical comments against the federation. Both clubs already had protested against FERJ’s introduction of new ticket prices at the beginning of the season.
On the pitch, the unity was quickly dissolved with the first goal for Flamengo falling after 17 minutes. Jonas shot from outside the box surprised Flu goalkeeper Cavalieri and found the net.
Then, after 28 minutes Fluminense top scorer and former Brazilian national team striker Fred was sent-off with a controversial second yellow card. It remains unclear if the referee gave it for simulation or intentional hand ball, both rather far-fetched interpretations of what had happened on the field.
With one man down on the side of Fluminense, Flamengo scored another two goals in the second half of the game and won with an overall score of 3-0, maintaining the leadership of the Campeonato.
Second-placed Botafogo faced losing their spot in the semifinal when losing 0-1 after a penalty given for Madureira in the first half of the second top game taking place in Fogo’s homeground Engenhão.
However, the alvinegro showed a completely different second half and turned the game around. Thiago Carleto scored the equalizer after 55 minutes in a beautiful free-kick and three more goals followed with a header by Renan Fonseca after 62 minutes, a goal by Fernandes after 74 minutes and a penalty by Bill after 88 minutes.
With the victory of 4-1 Botafogo also qualified for the semifinals of the Campeonato Carioca, while Madureira will now have to face Fluminense in a direct confrontation on Wednesday, April 8th for the remaining two spots, with third-placed Vasco also in the hope of progressing to the next round.
Currently only on fifth place, Fluminense will need a victory on Wednesday to make it to the semifinals, while Madureira will already progress with a tie. Vasco da Gama has it in its own hands against Volta Redonda, as the club will qualify with a victory, but has to hope for the help of Madureira in case of defeat.