The 2011 Brasileirão reached its halfway stage this weekend, just three months after it kicked off. The 19 rounds thus far have produced over 500 goals and plenty of excitement, and this weekend was no different. Corinthians managed to hang onto first place despite suffering defeat at the hands of bitter rivals Palmeiras, whilst Flamengo could only manage a goalless draw with Vasco da Gama. That latter game was overshadowed by concerns over the health of Vasco coach Ricardo Gomes, who was rushed to hospital following a stroke. He underwent successful surgery on Sunday night, but remains in critical condition at the time of writing. Força, Ricardo!
Palmeiras 2-1 Corinthians
Corinthians fans learnt an important lesson this week; he who laughs last, laughs longest. On Monday, the Gaviões da Fiel (the club's largest supporters' group) tried to cause a stir ahead of Sunday's clássico paulista, publishing a document which showed that Palmeiras star Kléber had signed up as a member of the torcida organizada at the age of 18. Given that neither the player nor the Gaviões had subsequently cancelled his membership, it was claimed (to much titillation) that Palmeiras were entering the derby with a fully signed-up Corinthians fanatic in attack.
The joke, however, soon started to wear thin. First came Kléber's admirably deflationary "yeah I was, and so bloody what" response, which juxtaposed marvellously with the schoolboy giggles emanating from the Gaviões camp. That was followed by a pointed reminder that no team depends solely on one man. The 28-year-old had a quiet game at the Prudentão, but two of his fellow strikers settled the tie; Luan cancelled out Emerson Sheik's opener, before debutant Fernandão netted a glorious winner in the second period. Kléber would have been forgiven for flashing a knowing smile at his fellow Gaviões at the final whistle. Their devastation served as the week's cruel punchline.
Brasileirão Gameweek 19 Round-up
Flamengo spurned their chance to leapfrog the Timão, managing only a 0-0 draw with Rio neighbours Vasco da Gama. In truth, they were slightly lucky to earn a point; defender Welinton was dismissed before the interval, and Felipe was forced into a string of good saves. São Paulo also failed to take advantage of their rivals' slip-ups, drawing with Santos at the Vila Belmiro. That game was graced by two stunning goals from young Brazil stars; Lucas' deft individual effort was followed by a piledriver from Paulo Henrique Ganso. In Porto Alegre, Grêmio got one over on eternal enemies Internacional in the Grenal; a late penalty from playmaker Douglas settled gave Celso Roth's side all three points.
Those results allowed in-form Botafogo to climb yet closer to the leading group. O Glorioso recorded a 2-1 victory over city rivals Fluminense (yes, this was unofficial clássico weekend in Brazil), thanks to two breakaway goals in the second half. Cruzeiro also secured a win against local opposition, beating Atlético Mineiro in Sete Logoas. Two goals from the irrepressible Walter Montillo - which sandwiched Felipe Souto's long range rocket - proved enough for the Raposa. Coritiba, meanwhile, who have enjoyed a fine primeiro turno on their return to Série A, drew with Atlético-PR on Saturday.
Things aren't looking quite so rosy for América-MG, another of the promoted sides. The Coelho remain rock bottom of the table, having lost at home to Atlético Goianiense this weekend. Fellow strugglers Avaí enjoyed some rare respite, however, overcoming Figueirense in a rollicking Florianópolis derby. Toninho Cecílio's side trailed twice at the Orlando Scarpelli stadium, but snatched three points thanks to goals from William (2) and former Galatasaray playmaker/troublemaker (delete as appropriate) Lincoln. The final game of the week produced the best assist of the round; Ceará striker Osvaldo (the "black-and-white Messi," in case you were interested) dribbled past a couple of Bahia defenders and ran half the length of the pitch before squaring for Felipe Azevedo to tap home. That goal was the second in 3-0 victory for the Vozão.
Série A results; Fluminense 1-2 Botafogo, Coritiba 1-1 Atlético-PR, América-MG 1-2 Atlético-GO, Palmeiras 2-1 Corinthians, Santos 1-1 São Paulo, Flamengo 0-0 Vasco, Grêmio 2-1 Internacional, Ceará 3-0 Bahia, Atlético-MG 1-2 Cruzeiro, Figueirense 2-3 Avaí.
(Photo credits; (1) Ricardo Nogueira, (2) Ricardo Rimoli.)