By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Vasco and Flamengo drew 1-1 yesterday afternoon in the opening leg of the 2014 Campeonato Carioca final at the Maracanã Stadium. It was a tense, balanced affair that saw tempers flare as Vasco were reduced to ten men in the second-half and by the end were hanging on for dear life.
Rodrigo had given Vasco a half-time lead before Paulinho scored a wonderful equalizer for the Rubro-Negro. The dismissal of Everton Costa proved decisive, allowing Flamengo to dominate but unable press home their numerical advantage.
Having won the group stage of the state tournament, Flamengo have the advantage in the final. A draw in next week’s return leg would make the Gaveá outfit Carioca champions for the first time since 2011.
Vasco, for their part, have not won the state crown since 2003 and will now need to seize the initiative in next week’s final encounter. They started brightly yesterday, but leading scorer Edmilson was subdued in attack and bore the wrath of the Vascaínos in the stands.
Nevertheless the Cruz-Maltino had the better of the opening exchanges and took the lead on eleven minutes. Douglas whipped in a corner and Rodrigo rose highest to head home the game’s first goal.
Flamengo failed to react and Vasco goalkeeper Martin Silva remained untroubled. Mugni and Paulinho, in the creative midfield berths, failed to create anything as Alecsandro waited impatiently for service.
The half-time interval completely altered the outlook of the game. Flamengo coach Jayme de Almeida made a vital substitution, bringing on Gabriel for the ineffectual Mugni and the side’s offensive outlay improved drastically.
Flamengo’s cause was helped early in the second-half. Following a bad challenge on Frauches, Vasco’s Everton Costa was shown a red card, handing the upper hand to Flamengo, which they exploited it ruthlessly. On the hour-mark, Paulinho unleashed a vicious, swerving drive that beat Silva and brought the scores level.
Flamengo sensed the game was theirs for the taking. Everton entered, his pace helping to stretch a tiring Vasco defense. Felipe Bastos came on for Vasco and added some much-needed bite to the midfield. He even tested Fla goalkeeper Felipe with a long-range effort, but at the final whistle both sides had to settle for honors even.
The Carioca final second leg is this Wednesday night at the Maracanã. Kick-off is at 7:45 PM.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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