Not surprisingly, today’s game against Santo André was a bit of a hard nut to crack. Not that Palmeiras were threatened at any point, but Santo André – with nothing else to look forward to after a disastrous campaign in the Paulistão – played with every ounce of their remaining spirit. Santo André possibly put on their best performance this season, but the game also quickly turned ugly, in part due to the weak performance of the referee. Not much was created and the battle raged mainly on the midfield. We went to halftime with 0-0.
Second half started much in the same way as the first, but with both teams slightly more offensive; after all, Santo André needed two goals. But it was Palmeiras who drew closer, always circling the opponents penalty area, with Valdivia, Kleber, Luan and Cicinho finding spaces. Deola had to work once, deflecting a very dangerous header from point blank, but that was it. Palmeiras’ undoubtful superiority started to shine through as the clock passed the 30 minutes mark in the second half. With outstanding stamina, our players seemed fresh and fast while our opponent visibly struggled to keep the pace. Soon after, Marcos Assunção’s corner found Danilo’s forehead and there it was: 1-0. Valdivia – still visibly frustrated by the violent courting received throughout the game – started to provoke the adversaries, mainly by extensive use of his patented “vacuum kick”. It paid off quickly: a Santo André fullback decided to teach him a lesson and was immediately taken off the pitch. Then, Cicinho suffered a penalty, which Kleber blasted onto the crossbar – that’s three missed in three opportunities, absolutely something for Scolari to pay close attention to. In any case, all in all a good performance by the Verdão. Watch the goal and the missed penalty below.
The trouble-free qualification to the Brazilian Cup quarter-finals – where the real test awaits, as we most likely will face dangerous opponent Coritiba – is the good part. Less good is that Thiago Heleno and Cicinho were substituted because of injuries: the former should be fine by Sunday, but with the latter, I’m not so sure. He was grimacing quite badly and holding his hand towards the pubic region. Looked to me like rather serious business that might take him off the pitch for a couple of weeks or so. Thiago Heleno also received his third yellow card and will be out of the first quarter-final leg, regardless of injury or not.
A day’s rest, then reload for Mirassol on Sunday. A win, and Palmeiras are in the semi-finals of the Paulistão!