Nerve-racking, as could be expected, and a closer call than needed be, had the referee been better positioned to signal that second penalty which most likely would have seen Palmeiras 3-0 in halftime.
Never mind. It was a terrific game, frank and fought just like the away game previous week. Difference this time, Palmeiras completely dominating the first half, every single man stepping it up, not least Amaral, Jackson and youngster Matheus Sales, freshly promoted from the youth academy and as of day one showing surprising maturity. Robinho, back after injury, immediately restoring a good level of creativity to Palmeiras’ midfield. Barrios, the author of two goals that should have been an authentic hat-trick. Last but not least, man of the match Fernando Prass, with decisive saves in the dying minutes of the game, then a giant during the penalty shootout. Enjoy, just as the close to 40.000 palmeirenses in the stands did yesterday.
In the other corner, Santos effortlessly beat SPFC 3-1 to advance to the finals.
“The Fish” certainly are on a roll and many a sports journalist consider them favourites to win the finals. I would have to agree, were the games to be played on the 4th and 25th of November, as originally planned. However, Santos thought better the games be delayed, received support for the idea from the other three semi-finalists, and convinced the Brazilian Football Federation to change the dates to 25th November and 2nd December respectively. There is no doubt in my mind the three extra weeks will do more good for Palmeiras than Santos, allowing the Verdão to recover both Arouca and Cleiton Xavier, while Marcelo Oliveira continues tuning the machine.
Sunday, the same Santos await at the Vila Belmiro in the 33rd round of the Brasileirão. Depending on other results, a victory – although of course difficult – is enough to propel Palmeiras from 8th back into 4th position.
There you go. With a squad completely reassembled at the beginning of the year, Palmeiras reached the finals in the São Paulo championship, the finals in the Brazil Cup, and are two points shy of a spot in the G4. Any Palmeiras supporter telling you this year is a failure you put over your knee and give a good spanking.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!