Yesterday’s game sort of met expectations. Atlético/PR had lost only two games on their home turf this second half of the Championship; Palmeiras only lost two as visitor. Both teams entered the pitch without key players – in Palmeiras’ case Valdivia and Kléber. Neither Dinei, Kléber’s natural replacement, could play due to a clause in his contract (he played for Atlético before coming to Palmeiras). Thus, the stage was rigged for equilibrium.
Both teams had their (rather brief) moments of superiority, but most of the time we saw a battle for possession on the midfield. The game was not violent, but the referee had to use his whistle a lot. The number of unforced errors was high. And as we are getting more and more used to here in Brazil, that include the judges; they managed to revert two legitimate goals in the first half – one for each team – into offside positions.
Atlético continued pressing forward in the second half, while Palmeiras visibly settled for the draw. Deola was put to the test on several occasions and, again, stood out as Palmeiras’ best player (side note: Palmeiras’ ability to produce top quality goalkeepers is impressive; we’re in the best of hands until the return of São Marcos). The goalless draw looked eminent when, with five minutes to stoppage time, Argentine striker Nieto put Atlético ahead after preciously driving the ball past Deola upon receiving a cross from the right. Watch the highlights below.
Any remaining aspirations in the Brazilian Championship went down the drain yesterday. Palmeiras is now 100 per cent the South America Cup and need to eat, drink, sleep it. The title will bring fame, fortune (at least a little bit), confidence, and a spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup: all crucial ingredients in order to construct a competitive squad for next season. Only five games separate us from our supreme goal. On Wednesday the 10th, the Green Tsunami needs to hit our opponent, Atlético/MG, harder than ever.