Palmeiras vs. Sport was great entertainment, both teams slugging widely at each other on the appalling pitch of the Allianz Parque. Cuca again opted for Fabiano on the right, placing Jean in the middle together with Tchê Tchê and Moisés. Zé Roberto on the right, with Vítor Hugo and Yerry Mina providing central lock; Dudu, Allione and Barrios up front. The offensive line-up permitted Sport a surprising amount of space on the midfield and Palmeiras struggled in the initial 15 minutes. And with 20 minutes on the clock, a header deflected onto Mina’s extended arm could have changed the scenario had the referee granted a penalty for the visitors. Instead, in a marvellously executed counter-attack, Dudu opened up the scorecard after assists by Allione and Moisés. Worth noticing Cuca clearly sending a message here: Allione is with us for the remainder of the season and an important asset.
The game continued an open affair and Sport equalised ten minutes later: a corner, a header that hit the crossbar, the ball offering itself to Rogério stuff the net. The goal woke our players up and Palmeiras took the reins, applying pressure and again taking the lead, just before halftime, as Tchê Tchê fired away just outside the penalty box. Moisés and Tchê Tchê stepping it up at the right moment explains a lot about Palmeiras’ ability to react, even whithout playing brilliantly.
In the second half, Cuca took Fabiano out, returned Jean to the right flank and reinforced the midfield with Thiago Santos, gluing him on Sport’s playmaker Diego Souza. The move had an immediate effect, the game becoming much more entrenched, with few chances created. Later, Alecsandro and Cleiton Xavier came on for Barrios and Allione. With status quo largely maintained until the final whistle, the Verdão secured three more points.
Flamengo only mustered a draw at home against Corinthians and Palmeiras have now pulled six points ahead of the cariocas, with six rounds to go. Palmeiras currently sustain their longest ever streak of undefeated games (15) under the current Brasileirão format.
The upcoming round, on the weekend, will prove very interesting as third-placed Atlético Mineiro receive runners-up Flamengo. The loser can abandon any remaining aspirations to bag the title this year. Worth noticing is that Atlético on Wednesday play Internacional away for the first leg of the semi-finals of the Brazil cup: the additional strain in relation to Flamengo might prove crucial to Saturday’s outcome.
Meanwhile, Palmeiras are put to the test against Santos at the always-tricky Vila Belmiro stadium. While Gabriel Jesus will be back after suspension, keeper Jailson yesterday received his third yellow and is out. Vagner would normally be his substitute, but 22-year-old Vinicius Silvestre has impressed at training and been rewarded with the occasional presence at the Palmeiras bench as of late. Cuca says he will have a good talk with Oscar Rodriquez, dedicated keeper trainer, before deciding whom to promote. Imagine making your debut for Palmeiras against Santos at the Vila Belmiro. Many things surely going through young Vinicius’ head right now.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!