On Saturday, the 38 rounds long Brazilian Championship – the Brasileirão – kicked off with four games. Yesterday, the completing six games, including Palmeiras vs. Botafogo, took place. Roughly 13.000 spectators were present at the Teixerão stadium in São José do Rio Preto, state of São Paulo. Scolari, with the complicated task of compiling the starting eleven without Valdivia, Lincoln, Rivaldo, Wellington Paulista or Cicinho, rather surprisingly opted for Tinga and Luan as playmakers, leaving Patrik on the bench. The setup didn’t work, as Palmeiras showed little creativity in the first half and only threatened Botafogo’s goal through Assunção’s crosses and free kicks. We went to half time with 0-0, partly with merit to Bota’s goalkeeper Jefferson, recently picked for the National team’s two upcoming friendly games against Holland and Romania in June.
Second half started with Patrik replacing Tinga, and Palmeiras slowly began to show progress, as more passes found Kleber (yesterday wearing a jersey branding not his name but “Gladiador” on its back) and Luan in condition to take the odd shot at goal. In the end, it was individual effort and talent that paid off: Márcio Araújo – perfect during the whole game in his defensive role – decided to invest more on the offensive as the game progressed. At 19 minutes in the second half he advanced well on the right flank and then crossed the ball to Kleber, who sometimes makes the difficult look oh so easy: solid handling of the tricky ball, tricking the defender into thinking that a shot would come and then advancing past him, finalising with a spectacular shot with his left foot. A beautiful goal indeed and enough to bring the first three points to Palmeiras. Watch the highlights below.
Although the overall quality of the game wasn’t much to write home about, there were a few positive factors: Marcos played well and seemed comfortable between the posts; with little to do, the game served as the perfect warming up of our veteran for the championship ahead. The second treat was finally having Pierre back on the pitch after five long months of recovery from the plantar fasciitis that forced him into surgery; the midfielder played the last five minutes of the game, pleasing the crowd immensely.
The Brasileirão is, as already mentioned, a long tournament. A common mistake is not worrying much about the early rounds, as the feeling of “there’s time to recover” easily prevails when/if results are negative. In addition, that mentality often serves to calm supporters down in case of a rough start. However, if the goal is lifting the trophy at the end of the semester, starting off with three points sets the tone, especially as some teams (although fewer this year) will still be dividing their attention between the Brasileirão and the Libertadores Cup or the Brazilian Cup for the next weeks or so.
Click the thumbnail to your right for an overview of all results from the first round of the Brasileirão 2011.
Palmeiras enter the pitch next Sunday against Cruzeiro; certainly a harder nut to crack. Hopefully, a couple of additional players will be at Scolari’s disposal.