In a game where a draw takes the decision to penalties, a 2-1 win is obviously a bit risky. Still, Palmeiras had full control most of the time and were vastly superior to Mirassol. If Luan had gotten just a couple more of his many chances on target, the final score would have been more elastic. Poor Luan got on the supporters’ nerves in the end, but Scolari is as firm as ever in his evaluation of the player: “Technically, he’s brilliant in relation to what he’s being asked to do. Obviously, we also ask for goals, but he misses just like the others can miss. There’s no other player that works for the team in the way that Luan does. Any unhappy supporter will remain unhappy, because he’s staying”, he said shortly after yesterday’s game.
And you know what? I believe in Scolari and his masterful ability to pick his men, invest in them, back them up – for months and months if needed – against the fury of the supporters, only to see them grow, mature, refine and execute the way he’s always intended them to. It’s beautiful. Very few coaches have that ability in addition to the prestige needed to sustain their convictions. Yesterday, watching Márcio Araújo on the pitch, simply gave me the goose bumps. Only losing out to Rivaldo in terms of being mocked by supporters, the midfielder has slowly acquired the acceptance of the crowds. In the last few weeks especially, Araújo has added personality to his important tactical functions, taking more chances and trying a few more offensive moves. Yesterday, he was one of the best on the pitch – up there with Valdiva (who scored a FANTASTIC goal) and Kleber (his normal fighting self and directly involved in Palmeiras’ two goals). Fast and precise, Araújo executed his defensive task while also driving and distributing the ball up the pitch. Several of these attempts didn’t result in goals due to mere details, but that would change in the 11th minute of the second half, when Araújo nailed a shot from far away, giving Palmeiras the victory and the ticket to the semi-finals of the Paulista Championship. Highlights below!
The semi-final takes place on Sunday 1 May at 4 pm. Opponent: Corinthians. Place: most likely the Pacaembu stadium. Just the one game. All or nothing. A full week to prepare for the most exciting of all derbies in Brazilian football. Avanti Palestra!