Palmeiras 0-2 Botafogo

Ricardo Gareca yesterday got his first taste of what awaits unless he delivers shortly after the World Cup; watching the game from a box at the Presidente Prudente stadium, he certainly felt the pressure as a large group of supporters directed their rage against president Paulo Nobre, standing beside him. Nobre and his entourage had difficulties leaving the stadium.

Just as against Chapecoense last week, Palmeiras lost 2-0. But the games couldn’t have been different in nature. The first half against Botafogo was Palmeiras’ from start to finish and several clear opportunities to open up the scorecard within the first ten minutes. Palmeiras kept the pressure up all the way into halftime.

The second half started as the first ended, albeit a bit more levelled. There was however nothing indicating that Botafogo would take the lead, but they did, the ball presenting itself to defender Bolatti after a corner and with rare precision sneaked it past a leaping Fábio and the goalpost.

Shortly after, Wesley was booked for a second time, making Palmeiras’ mission ever so harder. Still, it was Palmeiras who came in wave after wave – rather disorganised, it’s true, but still – while Botafogo defended and waited for that opportunity. It arrived, on stoppage time: a fast counter-attack signed Zeballos to close the lid. Palmeiras lost. But didn’t deserve it. At least, that’s my opinion.

With a difficult away game against Grêmio this coming Sunday, Palmeiras are likely to rest in the bottom half of the tables during the World Cup break. It’s unfortunate. With a little bit of luck (or skill) Palmeiras would have opened the scorecard against Botafogo, won the game, and faced Grêmio with pumped winning spirit, aiming for a spot in the Group of Four (G4) that make it to next year’s Libertadores Cup. Instead, the fear of relegation, the more than ever urgent cries for reinforcements, the pressure, the threat of physical violence, it’s all there. Welcome, Gareca. You will learn to deal with many a thing at Palmeiras, these being a few of them.

Centre-back, forward, right-back, playmaker (I’m predicting the exit of Valdivia after the World Cup): Palmeiras urgently need to make at least four quality signings in order to give Gareca a fighting chance of forming a competitive starting eleven with decent options on the bench. Make it happen, Paulo Nobre.  Nobody cares how anymore: just make it happen.

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