The title escaped us by the narrowest of margins.
Many of our supporters allot the referee – reportedly a Santos supporter since childhood – as the prime responsible for the defeat. Although there were some questionable decisions during the course of the game, I tend to disagree. The Palmeiras squad come on too strong, especially Dudu, who certainly was feeling pressured to perform after having blown the penalty in the first leg of the finals. Dudu and Valdivia were both booked within minutes, referee Guilherme Ceretta clearly showing he wanted to keep the game in a tight grip. In addition, several of our players performed under standards of what we’ve come to expect, including Valdivia. Overall, the team wasn’t up to scratch, not individually nor collectively.
Santos’ two goals were unquestionable. Palmeiras supporters complain about two penalties: the one involving Leandro, sandwiched between two Santos defenders, I felt could have gone either way – in all essence there were three bodies trying to occupy the same space; the other was a push to the back of Vitor Hugo, a clear penalty but of a kind that Brazilian referees never acknowledge.
Three players were sent to the showers. On stoppage time in the first half, Dudu exited together with Geuvânio. I thought none of them deserved it but one can hardly say the referee’s decision harmed Palmeiras more than Santos, rather on the contrary. With roughly 15 minutes left on the clock in the second half, Victor Ramos correctly received a second yellow, leaving Palmeiras with nine men to support the pressure.
2-1 meant penalties, and Palmeiras’ lack of cool was decisive – just as during the 90 minutes preceding the shootout.
In 2014, Palmeiras narrowly escaped relegation. 20 players were brought in for the 2015 season in a complete remodelling of the squad. Under the circumstances, reaching the Paulistão finals, having eliminated Corinthians on their home turf in the semi-finals, is a great achievement. More importantly, this is not the finish but only the very beginning of a journey. The squad shows quality, personality, determination and commitment. Palmeiras of today – in stark contrast to the Palmeiras of recent years – must be considered entering any competition as one of the favourites.
That being said, a few pieces are needed to complete the puzzle. A first priority is to sign a lethal centre-forward. The second is finding a replacement for Valdivia (regardless of Valdivia renewing his contract or not, as Palmeiras cannot be allowed to depend on the Chilean). Thirdly, an experienced centre-back to guide the rather young, defensive line-up. Finally, a defensive midfielder or right-back better than current options on the bench, permitting Palmeiras to maintain quality throughout the season.
With a strict fiscal policy in place and a financial surplus from the São Paulo championship coming in at well above expectations, rest assured that Alexandro Mattos and Oswaldo de Oliveira have received a checkbook estimate from president Paulo Nobre and are thoroughly scanning the market.
— ooo —
Vasco beat Botafogo 2-1 to claim the 2015 Rio de Janeiro championship. The missus is happy, of course. Perhaps it was too bold wishing for two different champions under the one roof.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!