Palmeiras beat “the team to beat”

Barcelona vs. PSG on one channel, Bayern Munich vs. Porto on the other. I’m flicking between the channels, but in all honesty my eyes linger more on the laptop screen, where highlights from last Sunday’s Corinthians vs. Palmeiras loop.

It’s magnetising.

With 15 minutes Victor Ramos opened up the scorecard for the Verdão, forcing our opponent to burn fuel they had expectations of saving for later, even for this week’s Libartadores game against São Paulo FC.

30 games without defeat at home, the Itaqueirão absolutely packed. “The team to beat”. Corintianos were confident. And they had reasons to be, as the equaliser by Danilo – always Danilo – was followed by a brace from Mendoza just before halftime. With the turning of events, coach Oswaldo de Oliveira knew he had to make bold moves.    

He altered both flanks, Lucas and Wellington making way for Cleiton Xavier and Kelvin: Kelvin improvised on the left flank while Xavier occupied a central position, dislocating Gabriel to the right. Then, Valdivia out to promote Gabriel Jesus. Bold with a capital B. An offensive line ready to make or break.

Make, is we now know. Although there were chances on both sides, Palmeiras had superior ball possession and controlled the midfielder, launching wave after wave of attacks. In the end it was Dudu who reversed left to right with a perfect cross where Rafael Marques had time to adjust the header to his corner of choice for the equaliser. Highlights below (never mind the Flamengo badge; the quality of the video makes up for the absurdity).

Penalties. Robinho was first out but drove it toward the stands, leaving Palmeiras at a disadvantage for the remainder of the shootout, with everyone convert leaving Corinthians midfielder Elias to seal the deal. 15 million palmeirenses on their knees, as the midfielder accelerated and aimed for the left corner, but Fernando Prass was there to miraculously defend the shot. Alternate penalties. Palmeiras converted, Corinthians, Palmeiras again… Petrus stepped up to the spot and Prass declared “It’s over, Petrus. It’s over.” And indeed it was. Petrus’ penalty was close to perfect, but Prass’ defending was superiour, nothing short of São Marcos quality.

The “Team to Beat” had been beaten, in front of 40.000, now silent, home fans.

Palmeiras are in the finals of the Paulista championship for the first time since 2008. Seven years. The same seven years that Santos have been in EVERY Paulista championship. So also this one, after having beaten SPFC 2-0.

The final is a two-leg affair: the first game takes place this Sunday at the Allianz Parque, the second the following weekend at the Vila Belmiro.   

Am I confident? Hell yes. Our chances of victory are 100%.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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