Brasileirão-nd Up – Rounds 18 & 19

Last week saw the 18th and 19th rounds of the Brasileirão, bringing the first half of the season to a close. Almost. It couldn’t be that simple, this is Brazilian football. Fluminense still have to play their round 18 fixture against Figueirense and Botafogo still have to play their 19th round fixture against Grêmio. These games will take place in Rio on the weekend of the 3rd/4th September.

Round 18

In the 18th round, which took place on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, the stand-out result was Cruzeiro’s 4-2 home victory over Internacional in Belo Horizonte. The return of Mano Menezes to a Raposa seems to have worked wonders; the team looked entirely different and attacked with a verve and intensity that has been missing all season.

Inter scored first through a breakaway goal finished off by Luis Manuel Seijas but from then on it was all Cruzeiro. New signing Rafael Sóbis, who returned to Brazil from Tigres in Mexico, bagged himself a hat-trick and was involved in all of Cruzeiro’s positive play. The other goal from the men in blue came through another new man Ramon Ábila, a wonderful van Basten-esque strike of a high cross into the far corner. The two signings look like they might keep Cruzeiro in the top-flight.

Inter managed a consolation late on through substitute Alex but by then the game was well and truly wrapped up for the Mineiros.

To complete a positive couple of days for the teams from Belo Horizonte América snatched a much needed point away at Sport, drawing 1-1, and Atlético went to the Morumbi and beat São Paulo 2-1. The goals in the latter game came from the recently acquired Andrés Chávez for São Paulo, a wonder strike from 35 yards, and Maicosuel and Lucas Pratto for o Galo, the Argentine ending a recent dry spell.

It was a second victory in two weeks for o Galo in Brazil’s biggest city and they are starting to look like they could mount a serious title challenge over the second half of the season.

Elsewhere in São Paulo state Ponte Preta beat Botafogo 2-0 at home to end a run of three without a win. The goals came first from William Pottker on the half hour and then from Reinaldo 5 minutes before the final whistle, Reinaldo’s a terrific left-footed strike into the top-right corner of the goal.

Meanwhile back at the top of the table Santos and Flamengo drew nil-nil in the Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá, one of the many underused stadiums built for the World Cup. Both teams hit the woodwork and managed to work the goalkeepers several times but a draw was reflective of the game. The point put Santos top of the table, albeit temporarily, amazingly the first time they’ve been top of Série A in over a decade.

Corinthians missed a chance to become the outright leaders on Thursday night as they lost 2-0 to Atlético Paranaense in Curitiba. Well-built front man Walter notched a brace in the second half after a frantic first period in which both teams threatened. Corinthians were poor in the second half and deserved to lose whilst the three points maintain Atlético’s great campaign and their chances of qualifying for next year’s Copa Libertadores.

Palmeiras also travelled south to face Chapecoense and came away with a 1-1 draw; a much needed point after back-to-back losses. Vagner, the injured Fernando Prass’ replacement in the Palmeiras goal, made a mistake in the first half to let Kempes in to score, but o Verdão managed to find an equaliser in the second half through Jean after a sustained spell of pressure and some good saves by home keeper Danilo.

In Porto Alegre Grêmio were held to a 0-0 draw by struggling Santa Cruz. The Tricolor Sulista could not find a finishing touch and looked like they are missing striker Luan who is currently with Brazil’s Olympic delegation.

Finally, in an important bottom-half clash, Vitória beat Coritiba 3-1 at home to end their own winless run. Coritiba took the lead early in the second half after missing a slew of chances in the first but o Rubro-negro turned the game through a horrible own goal and a thunderous golaço from Marinho before adding the icing in the 92nd minute with a poacher’s effort by Kieza.

The performance-of-the-round award goes to Rafael Sóbis for his inspired attacking display for Cruzeiro.

Round 19

The weekend saw another set of fixtures that were for some reason overshadowed by a minor sporting event that is apparently taking place in Rio de Janeiro. I’ve yet to discover what all the fuss is about but I’ll let you know when I do.

On Sunday Palmeiras and São Paulo got back to winning ways, both achieving 2-1 victories over teams in the bottom half. São Paulo beat Santa Cruz in the Arruda in their first game post-Bauza with two more goals from Andrés Chávez, who is making a wonderful early impression on his new employers. The Tricolor Paulista are still without a manager but hope to announce current Botafogo head honcho Ricardo Gomes this week. Personal terms have been arranged with the man himself but São Paulo need to put together a compensation package for the Rio club.

Palmeiras, meanwhile, welcomed Vitória to Allianz Parque. O Verdão went two up through Lucas Barrios and Cleiton Xavier before the Bahia side pulled one back after a mistake from Jailson, Palmeiras’ other replacement keeper, who punched the ball into his own defender, bouncing off him and in for an own goal.

The victory was enough to give Palmeiras the symbolic achievement of leading the league at the half way stage of the season as Corinthians drew with Cruzeiro and Santos surprisingly went down 1-0 to a last minute goal from América-MG. Santos ‘keeper Vanderlei had earlier been sent off for a clumsy challenge on Victor Rangel as he ran through one-on-one thirty yards from goal.

América’s victory was their first in ten in the league and perhaps gave a small glimmer of hope to their suffering fans. Santos on the other hand are clearly missing the presence of Zeca, Thiago Maia and Gabriel Barbosa who are with the Seleção but have done exceptionally well to keep themselves in with a chance of challenging for the title despite losing so many important players first for the Copa America and then for the Olympics.

Corinthians confronted Cruzeiro on Monday night in the Pacaembu and took the lead in the first minute with a deflected effort from Giovanni Augusto. After this, however, they struggled to break down Mano Menezes’ resurgent side and a Raposa were able to level in the second half, Ábila combining again with Sóbis and hammering his low cross into Cássio’s net. The point wasn’t enough to lift Cruzeiro out of the relegation zone but if they keep playing like they have been in the last week they will stay up without a doubt.

Corinthians and Santos dropping points gave Atlético Mineiro the chance to move into second place, which they gladly took, dispatching Chapecoense 3-1 in Belo Horizonte with goals from Maicosuel, Robinho and Carlos Cesar, Robinho moving onto eight for the season. Atlético’s attack could well win them the league if they keep up their current form. In Maicosuel, Robinho, Fred and Lucas Pratto they have a guaranteed supply of goals and when Juan Cazares returns from injury Marcelo Oliveira’s team will be even more dangerous.

There were home draws for Internacional, whose game finished 2-2 against Fluminense, and Figuirense, who played out a 1-1 against Sport. Inter have now gone 11 games without a win and the fans are increasingly restless as their team slide ever closer to the bottom four. The draw for Figueirense was enough to keep them out of the relegation zone and moved Sport onto 23 points, with the teams in 16th and 12th spots respectively.

The big movers at the bottom were Coritiba who climbed four places into 15th with their 3-1 win over Ponte Preta at the Couto Pereira stadium in Paraná, goals from Juan, Kleber and Luccas Claro handing them the three points. Ponte Preta’s only goal was a lovely bit of skill from winger Rhayner who flicked the ball over two defenders before poking it home with his studs.

Lastly Atlético Paranaense, the other team from Curitiba, travelled to Espírito Santo to take on Flamengo on Saturday evening. O Rubro-negro Carioca came out on top thanks to the only goal of the game from Argentinean attacking midfielder Mancuello, a lovely back heel flick from a cross. Flamengo had a hat-full of other chances and were deserved winners.

The victory moves them into the top four, a substantial achievement at this point after a poor start to the season. They haven’t lost since a 4-0 thrashing at Corinthians in early July and, along with Atlético Mineiro, are one of the form teams going into the second half of the campaign.

The performance of the round goes to São Paulo new boy Andrés Chávez whose brace gave the Tricolor a much needed victory and hope for a bright second turn after Edgardo Bauza’s departure for the Argentina job.

This plethora of action left the standings as follows:

36 19 11 3 5 15 35 20 63.16
35 19 10 5 4 8 33 25 61.40
34 19 10 4 5 13 28 15 59.65
34 19 10 4 5 4 23 19 59.65
33 19 10 3 6 15 32 17 57.89
32 18 9 5 4 7 26 19 59.26
30 19 9 3 7 2 20 18 52.63
Ponte Preta
27 19 8 3 8 -8 23 31 47.37
São Paulo
26 19 7 5 7 1 21 20 45.61
25 18 6 7 5 2 20 18 46.30
24 19 5 9 5 -6 27 33 42.11
23 19 6 5 8 0 29 29 40.35
22 19 6 4 9 -2 21 23 38.60
22 19 5 7 7 -4 24 28 38.60
21 19 5 6 8 -5 21 26 36.84
21 18 4 9 5 -4 16 20 38.89
20 18 5 5 8 -6 23 29 37.04
19 19 5 4 10 -8 24 32 33.33
Santa Cruz
18 19 5 3 11 -6 20 26 31.58
13 19 3 4 12 -18 12 30 22.81




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