By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This weekend saw all four of Rio’s top football (soccer) teams battle it out in the fifth match day of the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, or Brasileirão, to mixed results. Fluminense managed to begin the weekend with a thumping victory, while Flamengo suffered only their second defeat. Botafogo saw a three-match winning streak abruptly end, and Vasco still failed to get their first win.
Fluminense were the first team to play on the weekend, and they got off to a flying start. Bouncing back from their 1-0 defeat at the hands of fellow Cariocas Botafogo, the “tricolor” gave a spectacular performance reminiscent of the nine-goal extravaganza against Grêmio two games back.
The first half was one filled with chances from both teams, as Fluminense maintained more possession of the ball while Cruzeiro continued to threaten with their swift counterattacks.
However, it was Fluminense who scored first, on the brink of half time, with a well-worked corner finding the head of Nino, who then dispatched the ball into the back of the Cruzeiro net.
The second half saw the Carioca side score another goal before the fans had even had a chance to settle into their seats. Luciano made it 2-0 within the first minute, only for Cruzeiro to get one back three minutes later, setting the game up for an exciting finale.
While it looked like Cruzeiro could come back, Fluminense had other ideas, namely in the form of João Pedro, their 17-year-old star, who came on as a substitute, scored two goals and helped the tricolor turn a close-run game into an emphatic 4-1 victory.
It was then the turn of league high-flyers Flamengo to take on another top team–Atlético Mineiro–at the Independência stadium for a high tempo evening of football. The home team scored first, after 27 minutes, taking advantage of some sloppy play from Flamengo, and some cool finishing from Cazares to make it 1-0 to Atlético.
However, Flamengo replied less than three minutes later to draw the game level 1-1 with a textbook strike from goal-scoring stalwart Bruno Henrique. It then looked like the game could turn the rubronegro’s way when Atlético’s Elias saw red and was dismissed after 49 minutes.
Chará put an end to that, scoring within the first minute of the second-half and establishing the Mineiro team’s dominance for the rest of the game. While Flamengo continued to create chances, their defense looked weak all game. And at the other end of the pitch Atlético’s goalkeeper Victor put in a spellbinding display to keep the score 2-1.
Sunday saw Botafogo kick-off proceedings against Goiás, with the two teams being separated by a single goal, scored by Goiás super-sub Kayke Rodrigues in the eighty-seventh minute.
Botafogo looked like they were going to hold the home team to a draw, but Rodrigues came on in the 75th minute and needed only eleven minutes to score, ending the game 1-0 to Goiás. And while the Carioca team dominated in possession, they failed to convert this into chances, with seven shots, only two of which found the target.
Vasco finished off the weekend with a 1-1 draw against Avaí. Although they didn’t lose the match, the single point was not enough to lift them off the bottom of the table. In what was a fairly pedestrian affair, all the excitement seemed to be contained in the final minutes of the game.
For almost 90 minutes, the two teams looked like they were settling for a 0-0 draw, only for Vasco’s Ricardo to head in a goal with eight minutes left to play. Vasco’s surprise victory looked assured, were it not for Daniel Amorim, who headed Avaí level in the 95th minute.
Sidão was Vasco’s man of the match, with the goalkeeper working hard to keep the team in the tie. And while the game ended in the most exciting manner, the troubled Vasco team will be despondent not to have finished the weekend with their first three points.