By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Vasco da Gama was held to a 1-1 draw by minnows Resende on Sunday, March 25th, as both Taça Rio groups remain wide open. On Saturday Fluminense, Botafogo and Flamengo all recorded routine victories, whilst Macaé and Bangu continue to apply pressure to the establishment as they bid to qualify for the knock-out stages.
Resende and Volta Redonda also remain in the hunt as they lie three and two points off a semi-finals place respectively. With three games left to play and Rio’s ‘Big Four’ focusing on tournaments bringing more illustrious awards, a surprise could still be sprung.
There was no such upset at the Engenhão as Botafogo beat Duque de Caxias 2-0. Jobson scored his first goal for the club since returning from a doping ban earlier this month, moving the Alvinegro onto thirteen points and first place in the group.
Botafogo began at a frantic pace but missed a hat-full of chances before Fellype Gabriel gave them the lead on 35 minutes. Duque offered little threat and Jobson got his reward in the second half.
Proceedings were equally straightforward for Fluminense, beating Bonsucesso 2-0 with a brace from Fred. Abel Braga selected a strong side, something he has been reluctant to do in the Campeonato Carioca, and immediately saw an upsurge in fortunes.
Flu were two up by the sixteenth minute and knocked any fight out of their shell-shocked opponents. So comfortable were they that Braga withdrew Fred at half-time to rest the striker for Thursday’s Libertadores game in Venezuela against Zamora; Flu only need a point to qualify for the knock-out rounds.
A Vagner Love doubled helped Flamengo come from behind to beat Volta Redonda 4-2. The result gave the Rubro-Negro some breathing space; they now have twelve points and occupy second place in Group A.
An unsure start saw them fall behind on fourteen minutes before David Braz equalized. Veteran Kleberson entered for the second half and carried on his excellent form.
The most encouraging aspect was the link-up between Diego Mauricio and Vagner Love in attack. The former fed the latter to give Mengão the lead, only for Volta to level when Leílton pounced on Léo Moura’s hesitation.
But Flamengo reacted again through their front men when Love struck with a rasping cross-shot to make it 3-2. Flamengo’s task was made easier when Robson and João Paulo were dismissed for Volta before Léo Moura converted Magal’s cross to make the points safe.
Vasco failed to make it a perfect round for Rio’s big guns after drawing 1-1 with Resende at São Januário. Many Vascaínos had minds elsewhere as the club paid tribute to legendary comedian and Vasco fan Chico Anysio, who passed away last week.
Both sides had chances early on, but Vasco soon faltered and the visitors snatched their opportunity just before the half-hour. Marcelo Régis put in a low cross from the right which was tucked away by Elias.
Vasco tried to react but found little inspiration, with Alecsandro’s feeble left-footed effort their only chance before the interval. But ten minutes into the second half they had the perfect opportunity to level when the referee awarded a penalty for a trip on Thiago Feltri.
However, Alecsandro missed his third successive spot-kick after missing two against Allianz Lima in the Libertadores. The number nine made up for the miss with the equaliser ten minutes from time, nodding in Allan’s inswinging cross at the far post.