By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This weekend saw all of the “big four” carioca football (soccer) teams kicking off their Campeonato Brasileiro Série A domestic campaign. Flamengo was the only team to win their first match, with Vasco da Gama, Botafogo and Fluminense all getting off to a losing start.
Botafogo were the first of the big four to get their Brasileirão campaign started against the difficult opposition of São Paulo. The Paulistas seemed to benefit from the home advantage, playing at their famous stronghold of Morumbi.
While Botafogo’s performance under new coach Eduardo Barroca was an improvement on recent performances, they couldn’t seem to take advantage of their overwhelming possession of the ball. São Paulo, with only thirty-four percent possession of the ball, played a much more direct game in the final third and were rewarded with two goals, making the final score 2-0 to the home team.
Flamengo also kicked off their campaign on Saturday, April 27th, at the legendary Maracanã stadium. The rubro-negro were up against Cruzeiro, from Belo Horizonte. Flamengo ended the Minas team’s twenty-two game unbeaten run with a thundering 3-1 rout.
Flamengo looked keen to bounce back from their 2-1 defeat against LDU Quito in the Copa Libertadores with a frantic display of attacking power. Goals came courtesy of Bruno Henrique, who netted a brace, and Gabriel Barbosa, who scored a last-minute rebound to seal an emphatic display that will already make the victors early favorites for the title.
On Sunday, April 28th, Vasco da Gama got off to a torrid start, suffering a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Athletico-PR. Playing at the Arena da Baixada, the home team kicked things off with a bang, scoring their first goal in the first two minutes of the game.
Vasco tried to rally but Athletico-PR scored a second almost on the stroke of half-time. The visitors’ hopes were further dashed when Vasco player Wesley scored an own-goal in the sixty-sixth minute, making it 3-0 to the home team.
Athletico-PR showed up Vasco’s badly organized and error-prone team with one more goal in the eighty-sixth minute, before Bruno César was able to net a late consolation goal to save the visitors from total embarrassment, ending the game 4-1 to Athletico-PR.
Finally, it was down to Fluminense to cap off the weekend with a dominant display over Goiás that somehow ended in a 1-0 defeat. With heavy rain blighting much of the game, technical prowess wasn’t the order of the day. VAR (Video Assistant Referee) also stirred things up with three major decisions being made using the new technology.
In the first half, the referee disallowed a penalty for Fluminense, then soon after the VAR helped the referee to award a penalty to Fluminense, which was saved by Goiás’s goalkeeper. Then in the second half, the referee again consulted the VAR to disallow a goal from Fluminense’s Everaldo, to much controversy.
Following a twenty minute break after the strong winds caused a light to fall, Goiás’s Rafael Vaz was able to break the deadlock one minute from the end of normal time with a goal indicative of the afternoon. He struck the ball along the rain-soaked ground, which wrong-footed the stunned Fluminense goalkeeper and bobbled into the back of the net.