The Brasileirão continues to be as unpredictable as ever; this midweek, each of the bottom two clubs claimed convincing wins over rivals hoping for a title tilt. Atlético Goianiense knocked Corinthians off their perch at the top of the table, a result which allowed Fluminense to assume the leadership 24 hours later. Santos also slumped to defeat (their third on the bouce) in Curitiba...
Atlético-PR 2-0 Santos
At the ever-lively Arena da Baixada, Atlético Paranaense brushed Santos aside to claw their way out of the relegation zone. Inspired by the sensational Paulo Baier, this was a thoroughly convincing performance from the Furacão, who would have netted four or five if not for some stellar goalkeeping from Santos' Rafael.
So let's get this out of the way; Santos were hopeless. Overrun in midfield and disorganised in attack, the away side at no stage looked like getting anything from the match. Between the bulky Marcel up front, and Arouca at the base of the midfield, Dorival Júnior selected no less than four lightweight attacking players, none of whom appeared to have any set positional instructions. Neymar at least had the intelligence to drift to the left, and was by far Santos' best player. Robinho had the look of a man whose mind was elsewhere (Europe, perhaps?), and along with Wesley and Zezinho, turned in a performance so anonymous that I at times thought the teamsheet was playing a practical joke on me.
This shouldn't detract too much from the performance of Atlético, and particularly of the aforementioned Paulo Baier. Remember Zinedine Zidane's performance against Brazil in the 2006 World Cup? Sometimes a player doesn't have to sprint everywhere, doesn't have to try the killer pass every time, doesn't have to dribble past his man; sometimes a player just understands. That was Baier on Wednesday night. The 35 year-old playmaker was impeccable; drifting into space between midfield and attack, controlling the tempo of the game, creating countless chances, and threatening with a series of thumping drives. The first of these, midway through the first half, brought a wonder save from Rafael, who tipped the ball over at full stretch.
By that point, Atlético were already ahead. A typically dangerous corner from (you guessed it) Paulo Baier found its way to defender Bruno Costa, who joyfully volleyed in at the far post. Despite their dominance, the Furacão would have to wait until after the break to double their advantage. Paulo Baier's free-kick deceived Rafael, who could only paw the ball out and watch in horror as Atlético's Bruno Mineiro calmly finished into the unguarded net. Only the post denied the home side a stunning third. Paulo Baier (are you seeing the pattern here?!) found fellow veteran Alex Mineiro with a clever through ball, but the striker's snapshot rattled back off the woodwork.
An honourable mention, too, should go to Atlético's three centre-backs, Leandro, Bruno Costa, and Rhodolfo (who looks alarmingly like Kaká's evil older brother), who jointly stifled Santos' usual attacking threat. If the home side can produce performances like this on a more frequent basis, it will go a long was to securing their safety in Série A.
Gameweek 10 Round-up
Form teams Flamengo and Avaí met at the Maracanã, and the result was, predictably, a draw. It was the newly monickered 'Drogba da Gávea,' Diego Maurício, who sent the Rubro-Negro ahead, applying a precise finish after a slick build-up involving Vinícius Pacheco and Léo Moura. Avaí earnt a point, however, through Gabriel's long-range free-kick. The draw sees Flamengo replaced in the top four by Internacional, who came from behind to claim a 2-1 win over Atlético-MG. Diego Souza, making his first start for the Galo, opened the scoring, slotting home from a tight angle from Diego Tardelli's pass. Alecsandro proved the difference for Inter, however, twice rounding the keeper to finish after gorgeous through-balls (the first from Taison, the second from Guiñazu).
São Paulo continued their indifferent form, managing only a 1-1 home draw with Grêmio Prudente. Fernandinho and Washington, earning rare starts, combined in the first minute to put the Tricolor ahead; the latter finishing after the former had drawn the 'keeper out of position. The Abelha got on back level terms thanks to Anderson Luis' powerful header, and held on for a point. 1-1 was also the score at a sodden Olímpico, where Vasco held Grêmio. Nunes bagged his second goal in two games for the Gigante da Colina; his header sneaking in off the slippery turf. Jonas equalised for the home side just two minutes later, turning sharply before rifling into the top corner.
First met last at the Serra Dourada, with surprising consequences. Corinthians slipped to their first defeat of the season, beaten 3-1 by Atlético Goianiense. Captain Robston put the Dragão ahead from the spot after Júlio César had flattened Rodrigo Tiuí, but Corinthians drew level thanks to Iarley's instinctive finish. In the second period, however, the home side turned on the style; regaining the lead through Pedro Paulo's rocket, before adding a third thanks to Marcão's tap-in.
It was an eventful evening both on and off the pitch as Vitória and Goiás drew in Salvador. The Esmeraldino got off to a flyer thanks to goals from Rafael Moura and Everton Santos, but were pegged back by Ricardo Conceição's bullet header. Vitória finally managed an equaliser in the dying seconds of the game, but Soares' fierce drive was only the start of the drama. A post-game dispute between a radio correspondent and volatile Goiás boss Emerson Leão exploded into a full scale brawl, culminating in Leão and three of his players being arrested and taken to the local police station. All four could face criminal charges, and Rafael Moura, caught on camera landing a full-blooded right hook on an unsuspecting victim, might well be in big trouble. These were ugly scenes, reminiscent of the riot following Coritiba's relegation last season, and represent a shameful side of Brazilian football which must be eradicated.
Back to more civil matters, and Fluminense celebrated their 108 year birthday in style by leaping to first place in the Brasileirão, thanks to a tight win over Cruzeiro. Managed by ex-Flu boss Cuca, the Raposa have been in fine fettle since the World Cup break, and turned in another good display at the Maracanã. Fluminense, though, the picture of efficiency under Muricy Ramalho, withstood the pressure, and snatched all three points with Leandro Euzébio's towering header.
Botafogo produced a stirring comeback to rescue a 2-2 draw against Palmeiras at the Pacaembu. Sporting a brand new home kit (just in time for the start of...August?) in the first half, Palmeiras had to change to a brand new away kit in the second. Not a marketing ploy, apparently; it just took 45 minutes to decide that the dark green shirt was too similar to Fogo's black strip. Hmmm. Anyway, the Verdão took the lead through Marcos Assunção's wonderful free-kick, before Kléber added a second after a penetrative attack. Jobson, returning after his ban for drug use, pulled one back with a magnificent header from a Marcelo Cordeiro cross, before centre-back Antônio Carlos ensured a point for the Glorioso. In Campinas, newly promoted duo Guarani and Ceará also shared the points, battling to a 1-1 draw. Ernandes' fabulous drive from 30 yards gave the Vovô the lead, but Ricardo Xavier had the last word, heading home a Baiano free-kick for Guarani.
(Photo credits; (1) atleticoparanaense.com, (2) Gil Leonardi, (3) Tim Dib.)