It was another big weekend of games at the top of Série A, with a few shock results thrown into the mix. Corinthians started off the weekend with a four o’clock Saturday kick-off at home to relegation-threatened Figueirense. Timão took the initiative early in the game, creating several chances to go ahead in a first half in which they completely dominated possession. Figueirense appeared to have come merely to interrupt the game at regular intervals by rolling around on the floor, calling on the stretcher at every possible opportunity and waiting a geological age before taking each goal kick.
In the second half Figueirense’s nefarious ploy paid dividends, with Dodô stealing the ball in the middle of the park before strolling through the Corinthians defence unchallenged and unleashing a rocket into the top-left corner of Cássio’s net. Corinthians’ manager Cristóvão Borges responded by bringing on Danilo and Elias in place of Giovanni Augusto and Rodriguinho, changes which were roundly booed on the terraces. Danilo’s entry paid-off however as he headed a Marquinhos Gabriel corner into the top corner of the goal from a seemingly impossible angle.
Under a lot of pressure from a Corinthians team roared on by its home crowd, Figueirense managed to hang on for the draw thanks to several quality saves from Thiago Rodrigues, a valuable point in their battle against the drop. It was the last game in the Arena Corinthians before Timão are thrown out for the Olympic football matches over the next month and the draw made it 32 games unbeaten in the Itaquerão for the São Paulo side.
The draw for Timão gave Palmeiras the chance to open up a gap at the top of the table when they faced Atlético Mineiro at Allianz Parque at the Globo-enforced kick-off time of 11 o’clock on Sunday morning. It was a chance they failed to take. In their first game after the temporary loss of ‘keeper Fernando Prass and excellent young centre forward Gabriel Jesus to the Olympic squad o Verdão were overcome by single goal from Leandro Donizete after a lovely little passing combination between Fred and Robinho.
Atlético came to São Paulo with a plan to defend deeply and compactly against a Palmeiras side set up to make the most of the pace of their front three. The game plan was executed to perfection and sent them back to Belo Horizonte with all three points and the satisfying record of being the only team to beat Palmeiras in their own back yard this season.
Santos and Grêmio managed to take full advantage of the top two slipping up. Grêmio beat São Paulo 1-0 in the Beira-Rio, to put an end to a disappointing weekend for the big three from São Paulo. The single goal of the game came from the delightfully hipster-bearded Douglas and was enough for Grêmio to go level on 30 points with Corinthians and move within two of Palmeiras at the top.
Santos also prevailed in a rather spicier affair against Vitória in Salvador. O Peixe went in 2-1 at half time thanks to Vitor Bueno’s seventh of the season and a controversial goal from man-of-the-match Copete which resulted from a quick free-kick taken whilst the Vitória manager was conversing with the referee. This angered the Vitória players and manager, who thought that the ref should have waited to finish talking before allowing the game to proceed. As the first half drew to a close the Bahia side’s players surrounded the ref who consequently dished out two yellow cards to the men in red and black. As the players walked off the pitch the Vitória winger Dagoberto screamed into the pitch-side interviewer’s microphone that the refereeing was a disgrace, Brazilian football is a disgrace and the CBF is a disgrace. Probably true, but not very subtly expressed.
In the second half Vander drew Vitória level for the second time before they once again went behind in the 82nd minute to a terrific counter-attacking move started and finished by substitute Jean Mota. Santos saw out the last eight minutes for a victory and three points that take them onto 29, only 3 off top spot.
Elsewhere Atlético Paranaense beat Fluminense by one goal to nil with a goal from Hernani to maintain their excellent form and an outside chance of qualifying for the Copa Libertadores, whilst Flamengo overcame the hapless América-MG 2-1 on Monday night with second half goals from Alan Patrick and Paolo Guerrero before a late consolation from Juninho. With the win Flamengo remain within touching distance of the top four whilst América are looking increasingly stranded at the foot of the table with just eight points from 16 games, it seems an impossible task for new manager Enderson Moreira to keep them up. The directors, who thought the squad that won them this year’s Minas Gerais state championship would be strong enough to keep them in the top division and thus did not invest in reinforcements, must now be looking back with regret.
At the bottom of the table Botafogo left themselves in the relegation places after a 2-1 loss away to Chapecoense and Cruzeiro lost again, this time 2-1 at home to Sport in a game that marked the 700th appearance of goalkeeper Fábio in the blue of Cruzeiro. After the game a Raposa relieved themselves of the services of manager Paulo Bento in the wake of their terrible run of results that has left them in 19th place in the league. Mano Menezes, the ex-Seleção coach, has once again taken up the reins of the Belo Horizonte club to try to save them from relegation for the second time after returning from a short spell in charge of Shandong Luneng in China. The availability of Menezes was probably a substantial factor in the decision to get rid of Bento.
In another important clash at the bottom, Coritiba beat Santa Cruz 1-0 in the Arruda with a first half goal set up by Colin Kazim-Richards and finished off by Kléber, who also saw a penalty saved in the second period. This took Coritiba out of the bottom four and left the Cobra Coral teetering dangerously over the relegation places, only above Botafogo and Figueirense on goal difference.
Last but not least, Internacional drew 2-2 with Ponte Preta to end their long losing streak, in another bizarre display from the officials. In the first half Inter took the lead through Valdívia’s close-range effort before Ponte’s Maicon thudded the ball off the underside of the cross bar, down across the line and out again. The referee was unmoved in a way that will bring sickening memories to any Englishman’s mind.
Roger equalised for Ponte soon after and early in the second half some dodgy Inter defending let Wendel in at the back stick to put Ponte in front. In the 82nd minute Inter managed to find a goal to level it with Ariel heading home from a free-kick. The draw was important for the men from Porto Alegre, if only to stop the rot.
The individual performance of the weekend came from Copete, who linked up beautifully with Cajú down Santos’ left, scored one and played an important role in his team’s other two goals. The goal took him onto three in four since his arrival from Atlético Nacional of Colombia who play the second leg of their Copa Libertadores final against Independiente Del Valle on Wednesday night.
The weekend’s action left the table looking like this: