By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Botafogo jumped into fifth place in the national Brasileiro tournament in a huge week for Carioca football. Last Wednesday, Vasco defeated Coritiba in the Copa do Brasil final. With recent State Champion Flamengo and Fluminense winning the last two national league titles, all signs are pointing to a strong era in Rio de Janeiro football.
Only a late Figueirense equalizer spoiled Vasco’s celebration party as their visitors held them to a 1-1 draw. The game saw Vasco icon Juninho Pernambucano, dubbed “Reizinho” (The Little King), reacquaint himself with his old home as he was officially presented again as a Vasco player.
Elton gave Vasco the lead following an excellent through-ball from Eder Luis, only for a lapse in concentration to dampen festivities. Up until the equalizer, Figueirense had found it difficult to penetrate Vasco’s stubborn and excellent defense.
Vasco’s finest player on the night was once again the imaginative Eder Luis. Twice the striker came close to doubling the home side’s lead, only to be thwarted by the woodwork. As the game wore on, Vasco began to shut-up-shop, relying on counter-attacks to try and snatch a second. Their caution was punished when Aloiso broke free to level.
Abel Braga’s first game in charge of Fluminense ended in a 2-0 defeat away to Corinthians. Flu conceded two first half goals and despite improving after half-time failed to find a way back into the match.
Braga had promised attacking football, but it was Corinthians who seemed to be following his orders. They seized possession, did not leave open spaces and attacked in numbers. Willian got both goals for the Paulista side, the first coming when he leapt above Gum to head home. He then converted a penalty after Leandro Euzebio had bundled Liedson to the ground.
Braga has 34 more matches to get his tactics right, but on Sunday his “all out” approach failed to pay dividends. With Deco and Conca pushed further forward and using just three defenders, Flu’s midfield was completely overrun. Before Braga realized his error, Corinthians were out ahead.
Botafogo defeated cup finalists Coritiba 3-1 at the Engenhão Stadium. New signing Elkeson put in a man-of-the-match performance, setting up the first and scoring the second.
Botafogo were rocked in the first minute when Bill headed past Jefferson and give Coritiba the lead. Immediately the fans began to boo the team and in the virile atmosphere it looked like the home side might crumble. Not so.
Led by Elkeson and Maicosuel, Fogão took control of the game as both scored to give them a 2-1 lead. The team started the second half badly and were lucky not to concede. Coritiba missed two excellent chances when Botafogo’s defense went missing.
Just past the hour mark, the visitors were reduced to ten men when Emerson was dismissed for a high boot on Lucas Zen. But Coritiba continued to press and only two fine saves from Jefferson kept them at-bay. And in the dying minutes, Alex wrapped up the points.
Flamengo managed to remain unbeaten after a dreadful performance against Atletico Paranaense ended 1-1. Flamengo will gladly accept a point after Madson’s free-kick gave the home side the lead. Deivid equalized ten minutes from time. Bottinelli and Thiago Neves were almost nowhere to be seen and with no service to the front, Ronaldinho was rendered toothless.
Next week, Flamengo play Botafogo in a local derby. If Luxemburgo is serious about maintaining a genuine title challenge, his side must return to winning ways after three successive draws.