Palmeiras’ gameplay excels in rapid transitions from defence to offense, but without suspended Gabriel Jesus and Róger Guedes, it did not work very well against Santos, although Dudu and Erik worked hard. None of them had a good night yesterday, in Dudu’s case partially explained by a rough challenge early in the game, the player visibly uncomfortable throughout the night, frequently massaging his hip.
The setup saw Barrios fairly isolated up front: he did what he could, but without teammates approaching, he renders little.
Nevertheless, Palmeiras got off to an excellent start, pressuring a nervous Santos and opening the scorecard at six minutes after a header by Colombian centre-back Yerry Mina: his first brace in his second game for Palmeiras. Palmeiras controlled the action until suffering a first blow as midfielder Moisés felt a sting from last week’s thigh injury and was taken off. Moisés is strong in both offence and defence, and no option on the bench could do both parts: Cleiton Xavier would be the offensive bet, while Arouca the more defensive (Thiago Santos also suspended; Matheus Sales, Jean and Tchê Tchê already on the pitch, Gabriel not called up for the game). This early in the game, and Palmeiras in control and in the lead, Cuca understandably opted for Arouca, even with the seasoned player only just out of the medical department.
The game levelled quickly, with few chances created in the first half. Just before halftime, the second blow: Mina carried off, in tears, with a muscle injury to his left thigh. Such a shame: the youngster had every expectation to be called up next week to join the Colombian Olympic squad and later this week we will learn the severity of his injury.
UPDATE: a muscular injury has been confirmed, Mina’s recovery time estimated at 6-8 weeks. Olympic aspirations unfortunately up in smoke.
The second half had Edu Dracena replacing Mina, Cuca with just the one substitution left and a team gradually losing control to Santos, who reached the equaliser through a deflected shot with ten minutes on the clock. Again, Cleiton Xavier could have been an option to regain control and creativity on the midfield, but Barrios was tired and Cuca opted for maintaining a reference attacker, swapping the Paraguayan for Leandro Pereira, who made his debut in his second spell at the club. Equally isolated, the substitution rendered little, except for a hail of criticism from the stands. No, Cuca did not experience one of his best nights either.
Considering the troublesome context, the draw ended up being a rather good result for Palmeiras, the Verdão now sustaining a one-point lead to Corinthians.
There are 40.035 other reasons to celebrate: a new attendance record at the Allianz Parque. The expressive number also saw Palmeiras overtake Corinthians in the top of the average attendance ranking, with 31.854 against 31.011 for the skunks.
Now, focus is redirected toward Sunday’s difficult task. Palmeiras have not beaten Internacional at the Beira-Rio since 1997, but odds look better due to last week’s exit of coach Argel, this afternoon replaced with Paulo Roberto Falcão. This is the former defensive midfielder’s third spell as Inter coach and Falcão was reportedly not the club’s first choice (he has been unemployed since leaving Sport in April) but was offered the position after Abel Braga and Mano Menezes declined Inter’s offer. With Jesus, Guedes and Thiago Santos back in the squad, I believe we break that taboo on Sunday.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!