By Matthew Burgess, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Flamengo president Patrícia Amorim has taken drastic measures following a disappointing week for the Rubro-Negro, dismissing both the club’s head of football Marcos Braz and coach Andrade who led Flamengo to last year’s Brasileirão title.
Rogério Lourenço, a former player at the club and member of Andrade’s coaching staff, will take charge of the first team for Wednesday’s crucial Copa Libertadores tie with Corinthians, although it remains to be seen whether he will remain in the role long-term.
Patrícia Amorim took the decision to appoint Rogério Lourenço on Saturday after first choice Joel Santana rejected an offer of a fifth spell with the club, opting to remain with recently crowned state champions Botafogo.
Flamengo have faced severe criticism from both the media and supporters for their loss of form in recent weeks whilst reports of discontent amongst the squad continue to emerge.
On Wednesday night, Flamengo took a huge step towards qualifying from Group 8 of the Copa Libertadores after scraping to an essential 3-2 win against group strugglers Caracas at the Maracanã.
The team had collected just one point from their three previous Libertadores fixtures, and went a goal down to Caracas on fourteen minutes. Ronaldo Angelim’s powerful header brought the home side level just two minutes later, before Flamengo quickly took the lead – this time through Michael on eighteen minutes, to go in at the break winning 2-1.
Midway through the second period Caracas struck again. Jésus Gomez finished from a narrow angle to convert an outstanding solo effort which saw him run from the halfway line, to dent Flamengo’s hopes of qualification. However despite an inexplicable miss from substitute Petkovic, Flamengo regained the lead and secured the win as David fired in from close range.
Having achieved second place in the group, qualification as one of the best eight runners up was still not guaranteed, subject to a cocktail of results going their way the following evening.
They did, however, finally scrape through as the eighth best runner up on Thursday night to set up a mouth watering tie with Corinthians, but it was all too much for the supporters and Patrícia Amorim who fired Andrade and Braz the next day.
Andrade’s exit sparked the inevitable mass speculation as to who would take over as coach of Flamengo with disciplinarian Celso Roth or seasoned veteran Joel Santana quickly emerging as the two front runners.
Another name on everyone’s lips was Muricy Ramalho, but he was already involved in negotiations – and is now confirmed – to replace Cuca who was sacked last Monday as coach of Fluminense just ahead of their midweek second leg match with Portuguesa in the Copa do Brasil, after an uninspiring Campeonato Carioca campaign.
On the back of a 1-0 victory in the first leg of the Cup game, Fluminense raced into a three goal lead before half time courtesy of striker Fred. Two second half goals in response from Portuguesa and the late dismissal of Conca, wasn’t enough to trouble Fluminense who advance to Thursday’s quarter final when they meet Grêmio.
Also joining Fluminense in the last eight are Vasco, after a 2-1 home win against Corinthians-PR on Wednesday night. In a game which marked the 83rd birthday of their São Januário stadium, the Cruzmaltino took an early lead through Elton before Leandro levelled in the second half.
Carlos Alberto’s cool finish on 87 minutes as he found himself unmarked inside the box spared Vasco’s blushes. Vitória await them in the next round, with the first leg being played in Salvador on Wednesday.
Finally, boosted by ‘Papa’ Joel Santana committing himself to the club with a new contract, Botafogo celebrated their Carioca triumph by hosting a friendly with Corinthians on Sunday night. Loco Abreu and former Corinthians duo Edno and Herrera all scored in a 3-1 home win for the Alvinegro.