By Matthew Burgess, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Muricy Ramalho picked up his first win as coach of Fluminense against newly-promoted Atlético-GO on Saturday night, following a rocky three game losing streak. Muricy has endured a torrid time since taking over the Laranjeiras-based outfit, with the club eliminated from the Copa do Brasil and suffering defeat in the opening round of the Brasileirão against minnows Ceará.
With Atlético-GO reluctant to commit players forward, the pressure at the Maracanã was all on Fluminense to make the breakthrough. For long periods however, the Tricolor – overly reliant on Argentine midfielder Conca’s craft and technique – looked toothless in the final third of the field, clearly missing main striker Fred who has only just begun training after illness.
Marquinho finally opened the scoring, with the only goal of the game, in the 66th minute, taking advantage of Mariano’s deft through ball following his driving run at the Atlético back line.
Despite their first win of the new championship, the Fluminense team were jeered by dissatisfied supporters as they left the field at full time, leading Muricy Ramalho to respond to the negativity towards his team to the press, saying;
“The fans must help us. It’s important to have them by our side. I didn’t come to Fluminense without a reason; I’m here to win something. We need the fans to be by our side. We ask for a little patience.”
In Bahia, drama continued to engulf Flamengo as they were held to a 1-1 draw with Vitória. Rogério Lourenço fielded a strong line up in the torrential rain as Adriano and Vágner Love combined for Mengão to snatch a fortuitous early lead, but Elkeson’s free kick levelled for the home side with just minutes remaining.
In a week which saw Adriano omitted from the Brazil World Cup squad and Flamengo collapse to a 3-2 home defeat to Universidad de Chile, the Rubro-Negro must overturn the result in Thursday’s crucial second leg in Santiago if they are to progress to the Copa Libertadores semi-final.
Lourenço’s side face a difficult task after being comprehensively outplayed for much of the first leg at the Maracanã. Coached by experienced tactician Gerardo Pelusso, Universidad de Chile suffocated Flamengo, stifling Léo Moura’s and Juan’s attacking support from the wings, whilst creating a host of chances themselves – despite being reduced to ten men for much of the game.
With calls for captain Bruno to be dropped after the game, expect an increase in speculation linking recently departed Milan coach (and former Flamengo legend) Leonardo with a return to the club in a coaching or management capacity if Thursday’s result is a poor one.
Elsewhere in Rio, Botafogo continued their good form against a weakened São Paulo side, ending a fifteen-year winless run at the Morumbi Stadium with a 2-1 victory.
São Paulo took an eighth minute lead through Léo Lima, but Antônio Carlos continued his unlikely goal scoring form, heading in Lúcio Flávio’s free-kick at Rogério Ceni’s near post on 27 minutes to draw level. Botafogo once again demonstrated their will and determination to seal the three points as Herrera fed the ball through to substitute Renato Cajá, who finished from close range with three minutes remaining.
In the final game of the round, Vasco were without their trio of new signings for the goalless draw with Palmeiras at the São Januário. The club completed the high profile transfer of ex-Flamengo forward Zé Roberto last week, as well as contracting Santo André duo Nunes and Cesinha. The need for fresh blood in the Vasco squad was none more evident than against Palmeiras, with both teams short of quality in a drab 0-0 draw. Vasco need to improve fast if they are to compete in the Brasileirão this year, as questions continue to be asked of coach Gaúcho who once again dropped top striker Dodô from his starting line up.