By Jayme Monsanto, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Off the back of two defeats against minor teams and a sacked coach, Vasco finally found its way back to playing good football last weekend, defeating Fluminense 3-0 on Sunday night in the seventh round of Taça Rio at the Maracanã Stadium.
Last week Vasco was defeated by both Olaria and Americano under the command of Vagner Mancini, but as a consequence of the bad results the team’s board of directors under a hail of public opinion finally decided to fire him. The club has yet to hire a new coach, and the team is temporarily under the tutelage of Gaúcho, who runs Vasco’s junior team.
After the two defeats, Vasco’s place in the Taça Rio looked precarious. The only team among the ‘Big Four’ outside of the semifinals qualifying zone, they desperately needed a win in order to maintain any chances of reaching the next stage.
The first half was largely uneventful, with both keepers in inspired form and able to snuff out the rare breakthroughs from the strikers. The second half was a different affair, however, as Vasco’s coach chose an all-out offensive strategy that paid dividends.
Their first goal was scored by Thiago Martinelli in the 58th minute, while Dodô and Fagner contributed two more goals in the last minutes of the match (87th and 90th minutes, respectively). With the result, Vasco is back to second position in Group B, with 12 points.
Also on Sunday, Flamengo defeated América 2-1 in a near-empty Engenhão Stadium. Only 3,218 people attended the match and witnessed a Flamengo side playing unusually bad. América took an early lead with a goal by Jones in the fourth minute, but their joy was short-lived and seventeen minutes later Adriano found the equalizer with a penalty kick.
In the end, Flamengo’s individual talents proved more decisive than América’s teamwork, as goalkeeper Bruno held off every one of the American attacks, and Vagner Love eventually netted the winning goal for Flamengo in the 82nd minute with a well-taken header.
The last big Rio team to play in Round seven was Botafogo, who took on Boavista at the São Januário Stadium on Monday night. They had no difficulties sweeping aside their lower-league opponents, with striker “El Loco” Abreu scoring a hat-trick (8th, 79th and 88th minutes respectively) in the 4-1 victory. The other goals were scored by Marcelo Cordeiro (Botafogo), in the 53rd minute, and Tony (Boavista), in the 90th minute.
Botafogo dedicated their victory to Armando Nogueira, one of the most important sports journalists in Brazil, who died earlier that day. Nogueira was a huge Botafogo supporter, and covered sports since the Fifties, including no fewer than thirteen World Cups. The team paid their respects with black armbands.
The final group matches of the Taça Rio will take place simultaneously on Sunday, April 4th at 4PM. On that day, Flamengo plays Friburguense, Fluminense takes on Macaé, Vasco gets Duque de Caxias and Botafogo plays Bangu.
Flamengo and Botafogo are already qualified to the semifinals of Taça Rio, but Vasco and Fluminense still need good results to claim their places in the semis.