The Campeonato Brasileiro restarted on Wednesday, after a four week break for the World Cup. Ceará and Corinthians stuttered to a draw that gave Fluminense a chance to draw level on points at the top of the table, but the Tricolor could only manage a point against Grêmio Prudente. One team who did make up ground on the leaders was Palmeiras; now under new leadership...
Palmeiras 2-1 Santos
A derby between São Paulo giants is never an insignificant affair, but Thursday's meeting was lent added importance by the return of one of Brazil's most fêted managers; Luiz Felipe Scolari. Back for his second spell at the club, the appointment has been widely praised by fans eager to see Palmeiras recover from their recent wobbles. Felipão, however, is always in demand; the ink had barely dried on his two-year contract with the Verdão before there were calls for him to be named as Dunga's replacement as coach of the seleção. Scolari's comments in the media suggest this is unlikely; he hopes for a return to European management when his deal expires in 2012.
With the Palestra Itália undergoing a makeover, it was the Pacaembu which hosted the visit of Santos. The Peixe were without Robinho and Marquinhos, and Paulo Henrique Ganso was only fit enough for a place on the bench. For the (nominal) home side, Scolari was not the only returning hero; after a successful spell with Cruzeiro, o Gladiador Kléber started up front alongside Ewerton.
It was the latter who, out of nothing, gave Palmeiras the lead on 13 minutes. After shifting the ball from under his feet, the former Borussia Dortmund man cracked a powerful drive into the top corner, giving Santos 'keeper Rafael no chance. The Peixe grew into the game before the break, but despite the probing of Madson, failed to create any clear-cut chances.
Palmeiras started the second period as they had the first; Rafael had to be at his best to deny Ewerton a second after some magical build-up involving Lincoln. Santos threatened through Maranhão's long-range effort, but were soon after exposed by a swift Palmeiras break. Débutant Tinga swapped passes with Kléber, before surging forward and hitting a low cross-shot which Edu Dracena diverted into his own net.
Dorival Júnior threw on Marcel to offer greater physical presence up front, much to the disgust of the departing Neymar. The Santos coach was vindicated, however, with 7 minutes to go; Marcel brought down a high ball and smashed a ferocious shot home via the crossbar. It would prove to be little more than a consolation, however; Felipão's charges move up to seventh in the table, level on points with the Peixe.
Ceará 0-0 Corinthians
Goalless it may have been, but Wednesday's game in Fortaleza was a competitive game between two teams at the head of the Brasileirão table. Ceará's impressive record this year, particularly at home, has been built on a tight defence and midfield, and it was clear that the Timão would have to be at their best to make a breakthrough. Injuries, however, meant that Mano Menezes was deprived of not only Ronaldo, but Dentinho and Jorge Henrique too.
The replacement front three of Danilo, Iarley, and Matías Defederico struggled to make any headway against the home side's superb back line, meaning Corinthians were largely reliant on Bruno César to provide an attacking threat from midfield. It was he who produced the best effort on goal during the first period; unleashing a stinging drive that Diego did will to palm over. Ceará's best moments, as ever, came on the break; the combination of Misael and Oziel on the right frequently exposed Roberto Carlos' lack of pace, but some wasteful finishing saw the teams finish the half level.
The second half provided more of the same; Corinthians enjoyed ample possession but couldn't convert it into concrete chances. The entrance of veteran midfielder Tcheco and forward Souza gave the Timão more attacking presence, but in truth it was Ceará who could have stolen the three points. Late on, the mercurial Misael launched a delicate curling shot which Júlio César superbly tipped away. In the end, though, the draw was a fair result; one that sees both teams maintain their unbeaten records in Série A.
Gameweek 8 Round-up
On a laughable Maracanã pitch, Flamengo beat Botafogo 1-0 in the Clássico Carioca. A typically penetrative Petkovic through-ball sent Vinícius Pacheco clear on the left, and his cross was scuffed home by substitute Paulo Sérgio. It was a much-needed boost for a Rubro-Negro side shorn not only of Adriano and Vágner Love (who have both returned to European football) but of Bruno, the goalkeeper involved in the murder-mystery that has gripped Brazil in recent days.
São Paulo slumped to a disappointing home loss to Avaí, who are now level on points with the Tricolor. Roberto cleverly converted Patric's drilled cross past Rogério Ceni for the opener, before Vandinho added a second on the break. Hernanes pulled one back with a sumptuous left-footed finish, but the home side couldn't find an equaliser. At the Serra Dourada, Goiás and Vasco played out a goalless draw so dull that I'd be doing you a disservice to elaborate on it.
New coach Cuca declared himself delighted with the efforts of his Cruzeiro players following a 2-0 win away to Atlético Paranaense. The Raposa took the lead when Wellington Paulista headed home Thiago Ribeiro's perfect cross, and sealed the win late on through new signing Robert (incidentally a dead-ringer for Jason Roberts).
There were mixed fortunes on Wednesday for the teams from Porto Alegre. Inter romped to an impressive 3-0 win against Guarani for only their third win of the campaign. Sandro blasted them ahead after good work from Kléber, and poacher extraordinaire Alecsandro added a second after Douglas could only palm Andrezinho's effort into his path. The scoring was rounded off by Taison, whose acceleration and cool finish brought back memories of his excellent form of a year ago. Grêmio, however, could only manage a 1-1 draw with Vitória at the Olímpico. The Tricolor needed an Egídio own-goal to level Wallace's first half opener.
Thursday saw Fluminense waste their chance to go joint top, after a late Grêmio Prudente goal denied them a win at the Maracanã. The Rio team took the lead when Fred headed home a Darío Conca free-kick, but were made to pay for not adding another; Wesley levelled with a fine individual goal with just 6 minutes remaining. Diego Tardelli was again the catalyst for Atlético Mineiro, as they ran out 3-2 winners over Atlético Goianiense. He bagged his first with a low drive after a clever run and dummy by Neto Berola, a new signing from Vitória. Marcão equalised for the visitors, but the Galo restored and then extended their lead within 7 minutes. Diego Tardelli converted from the spot after Neto Berola was brought down in the area, before loanee Ricardo Bueno headed a third. Rodrigo Tiuí pulled one back in the second period after a howler from Fábio Costa, but Atlético-MG held on for a deserved win.
(Photo credits; (1) Tom Dib, (2) Jarbas Oliveira, (3) Cleber Mendes.)