By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – It was a weekend of measured optimism for Rio’s football (soccer) fans as all of the “big four” teams managed to either draw or win their fixtures.
On Saturday, March 4th, Vasco da Gama ground out a 1-1 draw against Corinthians; while on Sunday, March 5th, Flamengo also drew 1-1 against São Paulo, Botafogo beat Fortaleza 1-0, and Fluminense won 5-4 in a storming match against Grêmio.
In the first match of the weekend to feature a Carioca team, Vasco had to travel all the way up to Arena da Amazônia in Manaus to draw 1-1 against Corinthians in a rather uninspiring affair.
Mateus Vital opened the scoring for Corinthians after sixteen minutes played, and then Maxi López managed to equalize from the spot in the thirty-seventh minute after Vasco were awarded a penalty.
The draw earns Vasco their first point in the Brasileirão so far, with the team’s manager, Marcos Valadares, coming under increasing pressure from supporters and pundits alike.
Despite facing a Corinthians team that lacked many of their best players, Vasco looked unable to control the game and were lucky to draw the tie.
In a faster-paced game, Flamengo managed to concede a late goal to turn what looked like a victory into a 1-1 draw against São Paulo at the Paulista’s famous Morumbi stadium on Sunday.
The game virtually started with a goal when Flamengo striker Berrío opened the scoring for the club after just seven minutes played.
A result of some inspired interplay between Flamengo players Hugo Moura, Diego and Berrío, the audaciously-worked goal set the tone for an afternoon of high-quality football between two of the most promising teams in the league.
Despite having plenty of chances, São Paulo had to wait until the thirty-seventh minute of the second half to draw level, when their midfielder Tchê Tchê managed to smash in a shot on the rebound to give the home team a well-earned point.
Botafogo ground out a valuable 1-0 win over Fortaleza on Sunday afternoon, with Alex Santana scoring the only goal in the seventy-ninth minute of play.
Fortaleza could have been 1-0 up themselves within the seventh minute when their striker Wellington Paulista headered the ball against the post.
As Botafogo then began to take the initiative, it was down to Fortaleza goalkeeper Felipe Alves to keep the visitors in the game with some stunning reaction saves.
However, Fortaleza had their fair share of chances as well, and it was only when Botafogo scored their goal – a tap-in after yet another reaction save from Alves – that the home team looked like potential victors.
For the neutral, the real treat of the weekend came with the tie between Fluminense and Grêmio. The visitors somehow managed to come from 3-0 behind to win 5-4 in stunning fashion.
While Grêmio scored three stunning goals within twenty-two minutes played, it took Fluminense until the ninety-second minute for Yony González to net his second goal and snatch the full three points for the visitors.
Yony González was the hero of the hour, managing to pull the first goal back for Fluminense, thus setting the tone for a remarkable comeback.
It was a mixed afternoon for ex-Fluminense goalkeeper Júlio César, who gave away the second goal with a bit of clumsy footwork, but then redeemed himself with some acrobatic saves. However, he wasn’t able to keep out the final goal as it took a wicked deflection and spun into the net.