By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Fluminense secured their spot along fellow big Rio clubs Flamengo, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama in the semifinals of the Campeonato Carioca with a 2-1 victory and last minute goal in the last round of the group phase against fellow semifinal contender Madureira. Botafogo made it to the top of the table in the last game and won the title of the Taça Guanabara.
Série C club Madureira, long featured in the top spots of the table as the underdog among the big four clubs, were the surprise of this year’s Rio state championship. However, in the last round in a direct confrontation, the club had to concede the fourth place and last spot to qualify for the semifinals to Fluminense.
Madureira had more of the game against Flu, especially in the first half, but the club simply couldn’t turn its advances into any viable chances to score. Fluminense scored their first goal after 66 minutes, when Jean was completely alone and headed towards Madureira’s goal. The Série C club equalized after 75 minutes, but then had to concede a bitter own goal in the last minutes of the game.
Botafogo, already qualified since last weekend, won the group phase and with it the title of the Taça Guanabara with a last round 1-0 victory against Macaé. Equalizing in points and goal difference with former leader Flamengo, the alvinegro won the Taça thanks to their 1-0 victory in the direct game against the rubro-negro.
Flamengo failed to secure the title on their own, as they only drew 0-0 against second but last Nova Iguaçu.
Vasco da Gama won their game against Volta Redonda and managed to assure their spot in the semifinals, reaching third place. The cruzmaltinos would have needed the help from Madureira if they had lost their game, but with a comfortable 4-1 victory against Volta Redonda they never really had to think about this option.
The semifinals first round will already be played this weekend with first-placed Botafogo facing fourth-placed Fluminense on Saturday, April 11th and second-placed Flamengo playing Vasco on Sunday, April 12th.
The second leg will then take place on the following weekend on Saturday and Sunday, April 18th and 19th. All four clássico games will take place at the Maracanã stadium.