By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This past Saturday, June 1st, saw Flamengo leap up to fourth place in Brazil’s Série A with a 2-0 victory over Fortaleza. On Sunday, June 2nd, two Carioca teams, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama, faced off against each other, with Botafogo winning 1-0. And the final team to play off the “Big Four”, Fluminense, lost 3-0 against Athletico-PR later on in the day.
Flamengo put on a fine display at the Estádio Nilton Santos with two goals coming courtesy of their striker-in-form, Gabigol. The rubro-negro began the match in confident form, with new manager Salles opting for an attacking lineup of Éverton Ribeiro, Diego, Arrascaeta and Gabigol.
They were rewarded for their bold approach with ten chances on goal (compared to Fortaleza’s one chance) and sixty-three percent of possession, thoroughly dominating much of the game.
After thirty-nine minutes and plenty of wasted chances, Flamengo threaded together a beautiful combination of passes — practically waltzing through the Fortaleza defense — with Arrascaeta left to slide the ball across for Gabigol to tap it home.
Flamengo continued to dominate, and after sixty-nine minutes, they got their long-awaited second goal. After some more quick-tempo passing, Gabigol managed to nip behind a heavy-footed Fortaleza defense and make it 2-0.
Sunday’s game at Estádio Nilton Santos, dubbed “Clássico da Amizade” (Classic of Friendship), saw a single goal courtesy of Botafogo striker Diego Souza separate Botafogo from their local friendly rivals Vasco da Gama.
Vasco had better chances in the first half with some excellent counter-attacking play. Marrony, Rossi and Tiago Reis all came close but squandered opportunities in a game that lacked the tempo and quality that the tie deserved.
After fifty-seven minutes, and many half-chances falling to both teams, Diego Souza caught a crossed ball on his chest and thumped it firmly into the back of the net. Vasco struggled to find a reply, and though they created some more chances, the game ended 1-0 to Botafogo.
The last game of the weekend for the “Big Four” saw Fluminense trounced by Athletico-PR, with goals from Marcelo Cirino, Lucho González, and Rony. The first goal came after twenty minutes with Rony’s cross finding Lucho González who took advantage of some sloppy marking to head the ball home unchallenged.
If Fluminense had any chance to contest the game, it swiftly evaporated after their midfielder Airton upended Athletico’s Bruno Guimarães for a well-deserved red card. Five minutes after the dismissal, Athletico scored an almost identical goal to their first, highlighting once again Fluminense’s abysmal defense. Rony escaped his marker to nod the ball inside Rodolfo’s far post, putting Athletico 2-0 up after thirty-seven minutes.
The third goal came seven minutes before the end, confirming the utter dominance of Athletico’s display. Marcelo Cirino danced into space and struck home a deflected shot that ended the game 3-0 to Athletico-PR.