By Jayme Monsanto, Senior Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama, the four biggest soccer teams in Rio, were all victorious in the first round of the Campeonato Carioca, the Rio de Janeiro state soccer championship, last weekend.
Vasco was the first of the ‘top four’ to play, facing Tigres, a team from Duque de Caxias, at the São Januário Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The game marked the return of Vasco star striker Dodô after a fifteen-month suspension following a failed drug test.
The match was very balanced, and more then a little violent. Referee Lenílton Rodrigues had a busy time disallowing two goals and distributing fifteen cards throughout the match: two reds (one for Vasco’s Rodrigo Pimpão and the other for Tigres’ Celico) and thirteen yellows (nine for Vasco, four for Tigres).
Neither Vasco nor Tigres played particularly well, but Vasco’s skills overcame Tigres’ will power. The only goal of the match was scored in the 38th minute by a free kick from Vasco midfielder Fágner. Vasco’s next match will be against América at the Engenhão Stadium on January 20th at 9:50PM.
Botafogo also made their Campeonato Carioca debut on Saturday. The team played against Macaé in Campos dos Goytacazes (a city in the north of Rio de Janeiro state) in what was another balanced game. Botafogo put pressure on their opponents as soon as the match began with Herrera, Botafogo’s new Argentinian striker, scoring with a header in the second minute. Macaé reacted almost instantly with André equalizing, also with a header, in the fourth minute.
Botafogo’s below average performance meant that in the 32nd minute Macaé’s Fernandão was able to score a second goal. After losing the advantage, Botafogo found some energy to react, managing not only to equalize but retake the lead with goals from Lúcio Flávio in the 36th minute and Marcelo Cordeiro in the 43rd. In the second half, Botafogo reinforced their defense and held back Macaé’s offensives to secure a final score of 3-2 to Botafogo.
Uruguayan striker ‘El Loco’ Abreu, Botafogo’s biggest signing for the 2010 season, wasn’t on the pitch on Saturday but is expected to play on January 21st when Botafogo face Friburguense for the second round of the Campeonato Carioca. The match will take place at the Engenhão Stadium, at 6:30PM.
On Sunday, Fluminense defeated Americano at the Godofredo Cruz Stadium in Campos dos Goytacazes. The Campos-based team didn’t stand a chance, and were easily trampled by Fluminense who won by 3-0 with goals from Everton in the 23rd minute, Maicon in the 45th and Julio César in the 56th.
Fluminense’s next match will be on January 20th, at 4PM, against Bangu, at the Maracanã Stadium.
Flamengo, the last of the ‘top four’ to play, looked like they were having troubles when they played Duque de Caxias at the Maracanã Stadium on Sunday night.
Flamengo’s mixed team of substitutes and regulars resulted in a bad performance that seemed a far cry from what’s expected of the current national champion team. Caxias’s ex-Flamengo striker Maurinho scored with no difficulty in the fifteenth minute.
It was only in the second half that Flamengo started reacting. Kleberson scored in the fifth minute followed by Fierro three minutes later. However Caxias’ continued efforts meant an equalizer goal in the 34th minute by John.
Everything pointed out to a draw but Flamengo’s newly signed midfielder Fernando scored in his debut match for the team with a header in the 39th minute securing a 3-2 win for Flamengo.
Flamengo’s next match will be on January 20th, against Volta Redonda, in the city of the same name.
The other results of the round were Boavista 3-0 Bangu, Olaria 2-2 Volta Redonda, Madureira 2-1 América and Friburguense 0-0 Resende.