Flamengo 1-0 Boavista
Sunday's Taça Guanabara final was a mismatch made in heaven. It pitted Flamengo, the best-supported team in Brazil, against minnows Boavista; a local outfit whose stadium holds just 6,000 people. True, the latter had dumped current Série A champions Fluminense out in the semi-finals, but that was just a fluke, right? Surely they couldn't repeat the trick ? Well no, as it turned out, they couldn't. But Boavista made a decent fist of the match at the Engenhão, ensuring that their fairytale run to the final ended honourably, if not gloriously.
Flamengo, although arousing plenty of excitement with their recent transfer dealings, haven't been playing particularly well; defensive solidity has masked a lack of tactical clarity in attack, whilst Ronaldinho and Thiago Neves have hardly been firing on all cylinders since joining the club. Sunday saw coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo shuffle his pack a little; Ronaldinho played as a nominal striker, with Neves, Renato Abreu, and Darío Bottinelli all providing support from advanced midfield roles.
The experiment didn't really work; Fla struggled to create chances, and flying rightback Léo Moura was, once again, their best attacking outlet. A frustrating first half prompted Luxemburgo to throw on a more orthodox striker after the interval; youngster Guilherme Negueba was preferred to Deivid, who has struggled to impress since arriving from Fenerbahçe last year. The change improved things somewhat, yet Flamengo would ultimately require some dead ball magic to break the deadlock. With 70 minutes played, a foul on Thiago Neves gave Fla a free-kick twenty-five yards from goal. Ronaldinho, seizing the chance to stamp his name on the match, set the ball down before dispatching a glorious effort which nestled into the corner of the net.
It would be the last meaningful action of the game, with Boavista unable to pose a real attacking threat, and Fla happy to run down the clock. The final whistle predictably brought crazed celebration from the Rubro-Negro players, who have claimed their first silverware of the season without getting out of second gear. The real winners in all of this, though, one could argue, were the losers; Boavista's first final appearance will likely live long in the memory of their modest fanbase.
Campeonato Paulista Round-up
The weekend's derby game between São Paulo and Palmeiras produced some extraordinary feats of commitment... amongst fans in the stands. Heavy rainfall meant that kick-off was delayed by an hour, but supporters kept themselves busy by splashing and swimming (yes, you did read that correctly) in the flooded upper tiers of the Morumbi stadium. The game, when it finally got underway, was a scrappy one, with both sides guilty of some cynical fouling in the opening period. São Paulo went ahead through Fernandinho's rocket, before the game was delayed once more due to floodlight failure. Palmeiras, who gained a numerical advantage when Alex Silva was sent off for the Tricolor, grabbed a late equaliser through Adriano.
Corinthians picked up their third successive win, brushing aside Grêmio Prudente at the Pacaembu. There were two more goals in that match for Liédson, who is enjoying a fine start to his his second stint with the Timão. Santos, meanwhile, could only manage a 1-1 draw with São Bernardo, a result that proved to be the final nail in coach Adílson Batista's coffin. The 42-year-old was only in charge of the seasiders for eleven competitive games, yet alienated fans with recent team selections; his decision to leave out form strikers Maikon Leite and Zé Éduardo for two important games (against Táchira and Corinthians) came in for particular criticism. Marcelo Martelotte will act as caretaker boss until a permanent replacement is found.
Copa Libertadores Round-up
It wasn't a great week for Brazilian clubs in continental competition; four of the country's representatives were in action, but only one managed a win. That side was Grêmio, who overcame Léon de Huánuco thanks to goals from André Lima and Borges. Renato Gaúcho's men now lead Group 2, but have played one game more than Junior Baranquilla, who have an equal number of points.
Santos looked to have got their first win at home to Cerro Porteño, but an injury time Roberto Nanni strike cancelled out Elano's opener. Cruzeiro also drew, but a point on the road against Tolima represents a fairly good result. Both the Peixe and the Raposa will be fairly confident of progress from their respective groups. The same cannot be said, however, of Fluminense; the Rio giants were defeated 1-0 by América at the Azteca stadium, and sit four points adrift of second place after three games. With tricky ties in Argentina and Uruguay yet to come, Flu could well be in trouble.
Copa do Brasil Round-up
Botafogo scraped into the second round of the Brazilian cup, beating minnows River Plate-SE on penalties after drawing 1-1 on aggregate. They were joined on Wednesday by Palmeiras, who thrashed Comercial-PI thanks to four goals from Adriano, a man who goes by the nickname Michael Jackson, due to a (supposed) likeness to the (supposed) king of pop. Atlético Mineiro booked their place in round two with an enormous 8-1 win over Iape-MA, and partial namesakes Atlético Paranaense and Atlético Goianiense also went through. Perhaps the biggest team to get eliminated were Sport Recife, who lost on away goals to Sampaio Corrêa.
Best of the Rest
The final of the Taça Piratini (the first stage of the Campeonato Gaúcho) will see Grêmio face Caxias; the former coasted past Cruzeiro-RS, whilst the latter needed penalties to see off São José-RS. América-MG's 2-1 win over Atlético-MG allowed them to leapfrog the Galo into first place in the Campeonato Mineiro, whilst minnows Criciúma (who, incidentally, I once coached on Football Manager) beat Figueirense to win the first stage of the Santa Catarina state championship. There were also primeiro turno trophies for Coritiba (in the Campeonato Paranaense) and Ceará (in the Campeonato Cearense).
Selected results. Carioca; Flamengo 1-0 Boavista. Paulista; São Paulo 1-1 Palmeiras, Corinthians 4-0 Grêmio Prudente, Santos 1-1 São Bernardo. Libertadores; América 1-0 Fluminense, Grêmio 2-0 Léon de Huánuco, Santos 1-1 Cerro Porteño, Tolima 0-0 Cruzeiro.
(Photo credits; (1) Bruno de Lima, (2) Fernando Pilatos/UOL, (3) EFE.)