Yesterday was like having the “old” Palmeiras back with the “old” Luiz Felipe Scolari. In an unexpected 3-5-2 with Henrique as libero and with all players perfectly focused on their tactical (and mainly defensive) roles, Palmeiras were able to nullify Grêmio for most of the game, slowly cooking the stew and then, in a blitz with the crucial participation of fresh legs Mazinho and Cicinho, scoring twice in the last few minutes before hearing the final whistle. Assunção, after the game, dedicated the victory to Valdivia.
PALMEIRAS: Bruno; Maurício Ramos, Henrique and Thiago Heleno; Artur (Cicinho, 19′ 2nd H), João Vitor, Marcos Assunção, Daniel Carvalho (Mazinho, 40′ 2nd H) and Juninho; Luan and Barcos.
GRÊMIO: Victor; Gabriel, Gilberto Silva, Werley and Pará; Fernando, Souza, Léo Gago and Marco Antônio (Rondinelly, 30′ 2nd H); Miralles (Marcelo Moreno, 15′ 2nd H) and Kleber (André Lima, 15′ 2nd H).
The result is epic in its proportions considering the retrospect of both teams in recent times: while Palmeiras have gone from bad to worse, Grêmio have won all their games in the Brazil Cup 2012 and can on the whole show very impressive numbers when playing in the cauldron of the Olímpico stadium. Now, nothing is to be taking for granted and Palmeiras must continue as focused as ever for the return game: Grêmio are tradition and pride and will do their outmost to reverse the score coming Thursday. Expect a very tense game, not least due to the tough love Kleber aka Judas received yesterday and the strong albeit friendly rivalry between coaches Scolari and Luxemburgo.
Only negative aspects of yesterday’s clash were Artur’s possible muscle injury and the weak performance by Daniel Carvalho; in the (permanent?) absence of Valdivia, Daniel is Palmeiras’ only true playmaker and his form will be important in shaping the team’s offensive capacity during the course of the year.
Tonight at the Murumbi stadium, São Paulo and Coritiba battle it out for the other spot in the finals.