By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Vasco went top of the Brasileirão after thrashing Gremio 4-0 on Saturday. The feat highlights the remarkably rapid progress the club has made in under two years; when in 2009, Vasco were plying their trade in Brazil’s second tier. Now under the astute leadership of Ricardo Gomes, who remains in a serious state after suffering a stroke last month, Vasco are amongst the forerunners for the title. Success would complete a deserved double, having already picked up the Copa do Brasil crown in May.
Elsewhere, Botafogo and Flamengo couldn’t be separated in a Sunday classico, and Fluminense’s stunning recent form was brought sharply to a halt in Bahia.
A Diego Souza inspired Vasco took Gremio apart as they coasted to three points. The midfielder scored one and created two on an outstanding night for Vasco.
Vasco set the tempo from the off and took the lead after just three minutes when Elton steered home Eder Luis’ pass before Diego Souza began to direct the show. He created a golden opportunity for Elton, which he wasted, before getting on the scoresheet himself after beating Edcarlos in the Gremio defense. Vasco didn’t let up after the break, again scoring early.
Eder Luis met Fagner’s cross and Gremio goalkeeper Victor stood no chance. And the party atmosphere increased on the hour when Vasco got their fourth. Diego Souza was once again at the heart of the move, dancing around his markers before laying the ball off to Fagner. The fullback rifled in a bullet of a shot to score the fourth Vascaino goal.
As the final whistle blew, the fans remembered Ricardo Gomes, whose efforts to get Vasco to the top have not gone unnoticed in Europe, as well as his assistant, Cristovão Borges, who has carried on Gomes’ fine work. Two years is a long time in football; Vasco’s meteoric rise is proof.
On Sunday, Botafogo and Flamengo drew 1-1, a result which did little to help either side in their push for the title. Botafogo will be the more disappointed after a late flurry almost resulted in a winner.
Flamengo barely made it out of the tracks during a first half in which the ingenuity of Ronaldinho was severely lacking. Cortes and Maicosuel created a number of chances for the
Harsh words from Luxemburgo at halftime had Flamengo far better drilled, and they pressed from the start of the second half. Having swapped Deivid for Jael at the break, the substitute justified his manager’s faith with the equalizer.
Picking up the ball on the edge of the area, he beat Antonio Carlos before shooting past the onrushing Jefferson. Flamengo continued to pressure Botafogo but Jefferson made an excellent save when Airton shot from ten yards out. It was a day both keepers earned praise; as Botafogo pushed at the death, Felipe made two outstanding stops to secure a point for the Rubro Negro.
Fluminense’s run of four successive wins was stopped by Bahia in emphatic fashion, as the 2010 champions crashed to a 3-0 defeat. A Souza goal gave Bahia the lead, before Gum put through his own net to double the home side’s lead. And Souza got his second and Bahia’s third twenty minutes from time to seal victory and leave Flu eight points off Vasco.