We were heading for yet one more of those nights: Palmeiras unable to convert superiority – both technically and in number of players on the pitch – into goals. The scenario was grimmer than the last couple of games, as Noroeste found an early goal and was determined to defend their three points. With Kleber injured, Valdivia was on fire, but very alone. Scolari did what he could to alter the course, substituting Luan, Tinga and Marcos Assunção for Vinícius, Max Santos and João Vitor. The clock was ticking away…
Palmeiras is the team that has been suffering the highest number of fouls – on average 22 per game – in this year’s edition of the Paulista. Valdivia and Kleber are the most hunted players of them all. 38 minutes into the second half, João Vitor went for a solo run and was mowed down a few meters from the penalty area. In a masterful exercise, Valdivia took the shot over the barrier and into the left corner of the goal. Three minutes later, he managed to stay on his feet while heavily challenged by Noroeste defenders, finding Vinícius with a great pass; the boy made no mistake, driving the ball hard and getting a bit lucky as it deflected on a defender before hitting the back of the net (check out Valdivia after making the pass: he “shoots” the ball at the same time as Vinícius, then scrambles to commemorate the goal). Euphoria and relief!
During most of the game, Palmeiras did not play well, but the result wasn’t unfair. Valdivia made all the difference, playing at his full capacity and doing what you come to expect from a player of his calibre, charisma and – putting it bluntly – level of salary.
The three points came at a bloody convenient time. Palmeiras now rest at third place in the tables on the same number of points as Corinthians and Santos. Both Corinthians and Mirassol lost their games yesterday. SPFC plays today. There are seven more rounds before the knockout phase between the top eight teams begins.
On Saturday, Palmeiras play São Bernardo at the Canindé Stadium. Let’s see if Kleber will be back and hungry, just as Valdivia was after his days of carnival fun…
— ooo —
And speaking of carnival: the Mancha Verde samba school finished 4th out of the 14 in the São Paulo first division competition, only marginally behind the top three. Well done! Next year will be very interesting: the samba school Dragões da Real – linked to the supporters of SPFC – were crowned champions in the second division and thus gained access to the first division in the 2012 edition. For the first time, the samba schools of São Paulo’s three biggest teams will parade together. The tension is building up already, rest assured.