By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Important wins for Botafogo and Vasco have moved them closer to the top of the Campeonato Brasileirão after the sixteenth round as teams above them dropped points. Flamengo dropped to second after drawing with Figueirense, while Flu fans are beginning to lose patience with Abel Braga after another defeat.
On Saturday, Botafogo fought from two goals down to win 4-2 against bottom club America-MG at the Engenhão. The Alvinegro are fast garnering a reputation as the Robin Hood side of the Brasileirão; robbing points from the top while giving them to the poor. And it looked like they were going to continue their bizarre form when Alessandro and Rodriguinho put daylight between the teams.
Botafogo replied through Elkeson who rifled in a shot from 30 yards. Fogão remained on the offensive and deservedly drew level when Antonio Carlos headed home Renato’s corner, before substitute Alex scored two to maintain Botafogo’s pressure on the top four.
Flamengo squandered a two goal lead away to Figueirense to draw 2-2. Worse still, they will now lose Ronaldinho Gaucho for their next game as he serves a one-match ban.
The Florianopolis side had started strongly but were pegged back when Ronaldinho’s ingenuity opened space down the right flank. Leo Moura took the ball and crossed for Deivid to head the opening goal. And five minutes into the second half, it was Ronaldinho himself who put the ball on a plate for Deivid to give Fla breathing space.
But the home side never let them rest, and Flanmengo’s midfield trio of Airton, Willians and Renato lacked the cutting edge they had in the first half to stamp out offensive ploys. Angelim also went to sleep at the back, allowing Somalia to charge into the area and drill a shot past Felipe.
The goal spurred on Figueirense, who mounted continued pressure on Flamengo until they cracked. The equalizer arrived when Edson Silva climbed above Angelim and Felipe at a corner. Rattled, Flamengo lost the rhythm they had managed to impose prior to the comeback and had to settle for a point.
A Bernardo inspired Vasco overcame a stubborn Palmeiras 1-0 at São Januario. The two sides had already met last Thursday in the first leg of their Copa Sul-Americana qualifier, which Vasco won 2-0 and Palmeiras had learned from their defensive frailties.
The Paulistas were far more resilient at the back, and it took a moment of magic from the Vasco youngster to seal the points. Ten minutes from time, Bernardo hit a stunning free-kick over the wall and beyond Deola in the Palmeiras goal.
It was a strike worthy of winning any match and had all the markings of team-mate Juninho Pernambucano. Vasco remain in fourth place, four points behind Corinthians and Flamengo at the top.
There was more misery for Tricolores as Fluminense lost 2-1 at Gremio. It was their seventh defeat in twelve games under the stewardship of Abel Braga, and the positivity that greeted his arrival is ebbing fast.
Flu took the lead when Fred, who on Saturday confirmed he would stay at the club, headed in Carlinhos’ cross. But their advantage lasted just five minutes as Mariano missed out on a challenge with Lucio. The Gremio midfielder touched the ball to Marquinhos, whose shot took a wicked deflection off Marcio Rosario to deceive Diego Cavalieri and find the back of the net.
The same player gave Gremio the lead with a delightful free-kick curled round the wall and into the top corner, giving Cavalieri no chance. Braga introduced Martinuccio for his debut, but Gremio’s midfield organization rendered him futile.
With fifteen minutes to go, Flu threw on a fourth striker in Araujo, but it was to no avail as they were consigned to defeat yet again. Any hopes they had of retaining their 2010 title are now surely over.