Palmeiras played brilliantly in the first half and virtually neutralised Botafogo. Still, the cariocas took the lead due to yet another revolting error from a linesman, not calling a clear offside. Palmeiras’ reply came quickly, with Barcos serving up Patrik for the more than deserved equalizer. We went to halftime knowing that Botafogo needed three more goals to snatch the qualification from us. Things certainly seemed to be under control.
As pressure increased in the second half, Palmeiras’ tactical disposition started giving way. Botafogo’s second in the net was a beautiful goal but a bit of a fluke; the third, a result from hard work and certain lack of attention from our defenders who let the Bota player charge in right between them to get a foot on the ball. On both goals, Bruno stood without a fighting chance.
Palmeiras could have imploded right there and then. With 20 minutes to go, the pressure was monstrous. All heart, the team fought back with everything they had, including the debuting kid Luiz Gustavo who replaced Román after the veteran’s thigh had had enough. And Betinho, coming on for Obina? The often criticized striker was on fire and was, together with Barcos, the main responsible for lifting and holding the game on Botafogo’s half of the pitch whenever possible.
Palmeiras held on by the skin of their teeth. It was terrifying, it was dignifying, and it was beautiful. A spectacular game of football. Botafogo deserve respect for their effort and correct posture: it was a fair fight from beginning to end.
The Verdão are now in the final 16 and will face either Guaraní from Paraguay or Millonarios from Colombia. Entering the international phase of the competition is important to gather experience, not least considering next year’s participation in the Libertadores Cup. However, the first leg of the next phase of the South America Cup takes place only in mid-September; Palmeiras must immediately refocus on the Brazilian Championship – we have six rounds to distance ourselves from the relegation zone.
Is it even humanly possible to reload against Santos at the Pacaembu this Saturday?