Brazil's two biggest cities both hosted clássicos this weekend, and while Palmeiras' clash with São Paulo proved a rather tepid affair, Rio's Fla-Flu derby was anything but. Elsewhere, Corinthians moved to the head of the table with a win over Grêmio Prudente, and Botafogo drew with Cruzeiro.
Flamengo 3-3 Fluminense
Only 15,000 fans made their way to the Engenhão on Sunday, a disappointing attendance for one of Brazil's most fierce rivalries. Those who did make the trip, though, were treated to a pulsating match, one which both teams will feel they could have won. Muricy Ramalho was faced with some selection issues heading into the tie, with Deco and Fernando Henrique joining Fred and Emerson in the treatment room; Rafael started in goal, with Rodriguinho joining Washington in attack. Flamengo coach Silas, meanwhile, again left Diego Maurício on the bench, preferring to keep faith with the duo of Deivid and Diogo up front.
The match started with Fluminense on the front foot. The Tricolor took the lead in the eighth minute, with a trademark dead-ball routine; Conca's corner was flicked on by Rodriguinho at the near post, which flummoxed the Fla defence, and allowed Leandro Euzébio to ghost unmarked into the six-yard box and head past Marcelo Lomba. It was the centre-back's fourth goal of a productive season. Flamengo, however, came roaring back into contention, going close through Léo Moura's free-kick before finding an equaliser. Again, it was a defensive lapse that provided the catalyst; Flu centre-back Gum dallied on the ball, allowing Kléberson to nip in an dink an intelligent cross to the back post, where Deivid guided home his first goal for the club. Things would get even better for the Rubro-Negro before the break, when David Braz pounced at the far post following a Renato corner. The youngster celebrated in style, blowing kisses to the jubilant home fans.
The game would get even better in the second period; both teams refrained from the usual Brasileirão staples of diving and time-wasting to create an enthralling spectacle. Renato tested Rafael with a stinging drive, and Washington was denied by some last ditch defending at the other end. Fluminense, who looked far more balanced after the introduction of midfielder Marquinho, grabbed an equaliser just before the hour mark; Diogo's clever pass found Rodriguinho, who sold David Braz a sumptuous dummy before curling a shot into the top corner. It appeared at that point that the Tricolor would take control of the match, but a moment of genius meant that they would again have to come from behind. Flamengo won a free-kick 25 yards out, which playmaker Renato, quiet for much of the match, blasted into the roof of the net. Golaço!
In the closing twenty minutes, Flamengo seemed to tire, allowing Fluminense to again draw level. Marquinho's corner created chaos on the Fla box, allowing Rodriguinho to poke home his second of the evening from three yards out. Further chances arrived for both sides; Marquinho's volley dipped just wide for Flu, who had Rafael to thank for his sharp reflex save from Deivid. The match, though, would end a draw; a fair result after a captivating ninety minutes.
Gameweek 23 Round-up
That result, although promising for Flamengo, ironically favoured another of their biggest rivals, Corinthians, who now lead Série A outright after a comfortable 3-0 win over Grêmio Prudente. Elias set up Iarley to put the Timão ahead, before two lovely second half goals sealed the points. Jorge Henrique got on the scoresheet with a controlled first-time shot after good work by Bruno César, and Elias rounded things off, smashing home following a one-two with Paulinho. Next up for Corinthians are Santos, who played out a disappointing goalless draw with Guarani in Campinas. The Peixe were without Neymar, who was left out of the squad following his outburst at coach Dorival Júnior.
Atlético Paranaense picked up a good win on their travels, beating Atlético Goianiense 2-1 at the Serra Dourada. The Furacão raced into a two goal lead, thanks to a Branquinho brace; the first a simple volley after Maikon Leite's shot had rattled the bar, and the second a cultured finish after a quick break. Diogo Galvão pulled one back, drilling past Neto after a delightful ball from Anaílson, but the home side couldn't manage an equaliser. The Dragão sink to 19th, due to Goiás' 1-1 draw with Ceará. Oziel put the latter ahead with the aid of a hilarious fumble by Harlei (who then bizarrely feigned injury), but Wellington Monteiro's stunning long-range strike ensured the points were shared.
Title hopefuls Botafogo and Cruzeiro met at the Engenhão, and battled to an enjoyable 2-2 draw. The oft-maligned Alessandro put the home side ahead with a smart turn and finish, but Walter Montillo's penalty brought the Raposa level. The Argentine, in fine fettle since arriving from Universidad de Chile, then doubled his tally, finding the corner of the net with a powerful effort. Botafogo would snatch a dramatic point, however, thanks to their talisman 'Loco' Abreu, who converted from the penalty spot after Maicosuel was fouled in the area. That result allowed Internacional to join Botafogo on 38 points, after the Porto Alegre side ended Vasco's long unbeaten run at the Beira-Rio. The only goal of the game was scored by Edu, finally handed a start by Celso Roth after months of frustration. The former Celta Vigo striker volleyed emphatically home following good work by Andrés D'Alessandro.
São Paulo overcame Palmeiras at the Pacaembu in Sunday's clássico paulista, thanks largely to a fabulous performance from young forward Lucas. The attacker (who, before this week, had been known as Marcelinho as a tribute to his idol Marcelinho Carioca) put the Tricolor ahead with a deft volley, before turning provider; his perfect chipped pass released Fernandão, who controlled before firing past Palmeiras 'keeper Deola. Avaí continued to drop like a stone down the Brasileirão rankings, as they were soundly beaten at home by Grêmio. Jonas opened the scoring for the Tricolor Gaúcho with a brilliant individual effort, and André Luís headed home their second. Jonas added a third with a deflected shot, a goal which takes him to the top of the league's scoring charts with eleven for the season.
Vitória picked up their first win in eight games, triumphing 3-2 over Atlético Mineiro at the Arena do Jacaré. Vitória goalkeeper Viáfara put his side ahead from the penalty spot after another error from the hapless Fábio Costa, before Egídio, a revelation this season, slid in a second. The Galo worked their way back into the game, thanks to Daniel Carvalho's deflected strike, and a close-range finish from Neto Berola, but a scrappy goal from Henrique condemned them to defeat.
Results; Corinthians 3-0 Grêmio Prudente, Atlético-GO 1-2 Atlético-PR, Botafogo 2-2 Cruzeiro, Atlético-MG 2-3 Vitória, Palmeiras 0-2 São Paulo, Internacional 1-0 Vasco, Guarani 0-0 Santos, Flamengo 3-3 Fluminense, Avaí 0-3 Grêmio, Ceará 1-1 Goiás.
(Photo credits; (1) Alexandre Vidal, (2) Gilvan de Souza, (3) Miguel Schincariol.)