High-profile derby, the first true test of the season. Presidente Prudente. Scorching sun. KIA’s debut on the Palmeiras jersey. Neymar’s birthday. And “everyone” set on commemorating the wiz kid’s 100th goal.
Palmeiras came on with a defensive formation, Scolari innovating by positioning João Vítor as a third defensive midfielder from start (again, no Tinga in sight). Fairly early the action started tilting in favour of Palmeiras, with the team exercising more ball possession and a stronger presence in the offensive zone with Valdivia distributing passes. However, few clear chances were created on either side and we went to half-time goalless and Valdivialess; with five minutes left the Chilean felt his ankle and also a muscular discomfort and gave way to Daniel Carvalho.
Second half and the scenario pretty much stayed the same. Palmeiras’ strong defence frustrated the attempts of Neymar and Ganso, while Palmeiras consistently threatened to open up the scorecard; Daniel Carvalho is improving by the game and today brought plenty of quality to Palmeiras’ offence.
Then came the bucket of cold water: Ganso took a free kick masterfully and found Neymar alone between two defenders, giving Deola no chance in hell. Celebration, fireworks, hail and praise to Brazilian football’s cover boy #1.
Scolari withdrew Luan and replaced him with Maikon Leite. The swap produced the usual effects, with a lighter and faster Palmeiras scaling up the pressure. With five minutes to go, Assunção’s corner found opportunist Fernandão in a similar way as against Portuguesa two weeks back to score the equaliser. And only minutes later Carvalho’s pass allowed Juninho to drive the ball on his left flank and cross it low, seeing it reflecting off a defender to leave excellent Santos keeper Rafael completely surrendered. The highlights below are truly joyful.
Tactically, players performed very well today. And the squad is clearly united and focused. The team’ perseverance and coolness, even against a strong opponent and under demanding conditions, are promising signs. The two reinforcements we’ve seen in action so far – Carvalho and Juninho – have surely made good to excellent first impressions. And next week we should get the first glimpses of Barcos, Román and Artur performing under fire.
There’s more… Palmeiras seem very close to repatriate former Santos midfielder Wesley, currently at Werder Bremen. The two clubs have agreed on sums and Palmeiras will now proceed negotiations with Wesley, hopefully being able to integrating him into the squad by early next week. Wesley is a quality player and very versatile. A confirmation of his signing would be very welcome indeed.