By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Flamengo have one foot in the semi-finals of the Copa do Brasil after a 1-0 win over América-RN at the Arena das Dunas in Natal last night. The first leg win gives the Carioca club a major advantage ahead of the return tie at the Maracanã in two weeks’ time.
Gabriel’s second half strike was enough to separate the sides as the Rubro-Negro continue the defence of their 2013 title. But América could and perhaps deserved something from the game for the way in which they pressed and harried their more esteemed visitors during an impressive first half diaplay.
Flamengo, certainly for much of the opening period, were withdrawn and struggled to get out of their own half. Their midfield play was virtually non-existent and at times Mengo were chasing shadows.
Nevertheless, it was Fla who thought they had taken the lead on 25 minutes. Alecsandro saw his effort saved by Fernando Henrique, Márcio Araújo touched home the rebound but the linesman had his flag up for offside.
Growing slowly as the first half wore on, it took Flamengo just 24 seconds after the interval to break the deadlock. Everton won the ball in midfield and sent the ball forward to Alecsandro, who in turn played in Gabriel.
The midfielder sent an angled drive from the right into the net. It was his first goal for the club in seven months.
The goal seemed to sink América. Their offensive posturing from the first 45 minutes disappeared, and only a long range effort from Márcio Passos went close to threatening an equaliser.
Flamengo easily took control of the game as their hosts looked devoid of ideas. They were able to control the midfield and play down the clock under little to no pressure.
Over at the Maracanã, Botafogo lost 3-2 to Santos and have been left with a tough task to qualify away from home. Two goals from Robinho either side of a wonderful curling effort from Fogo’s Gabriel gave the visitors the advantage.
Just before the break, Geuvânio made it 3-1 to Santos and Botafogo’s problems were made worse when goalkeeper Jefferson had to be substituted with an injured finger. Zeballos pulled one back for the Glorioso on 56 minutes but there was to be no leveller, despite the dismissal of Robinho for two bookable offences.