Atlético Mineiro 1-1 Palmeiras – just about right

Stepping into the Congonhas airport on Tuesday, heading for Belo Horizonte and Thursday’s game against Atlético Mineiro, the Palmeiras squad was greeted to a sending-off of the kind few of the players, if any, had witnessed before: an estimated 3.000 supporters had gathered to show their appraisal and encourage the men. Emotionally touched and honoured, players joined in in the choir – singing, filming, becoming one with the crowd. A rare moment of symbiosis, a thing of beauty.

The game itself was every bit as tense as expected, Atlético applying customary pressure and exercising greater possession, our players closing ranks, biding their time and launching rapid counter-attacks, one of which saw Gabriel Jesus on target, ending his eight-game streak without finding the net. His tears of joy and relief say it all.
In the second half, Atlético found the equalizer through Lucas Pratto, the Argentine striker enjoying a splendid moment at the club and national squad, just like our Gabriel Jesus. Tactical obedience loosened up slightly as fatigue kicked in on both sides, numerous chances being created. It could have gone either way, but the draw was fair and just about right for Palmeiras, now only needing two victories in remaining three rounds to mathematically secure the title.

Two home games remain – against Botafogo on Sunday and Chapecoense the following Sunday – then Vitória away, before the club’s top scorer (12) in this year’s edition of the Brasileirão joins Manchester City. “I got emotional, because these are my last games for Palmeiras”, Gabriel Jesus explained after the final whistle. “Ever since I first pulled on this shirt, I have honoured it, in all the games. Of course, sometimes you lack in technique. Today, I felt tired, which is normal, but the sacrifice was worth it. Not only because of the goal, but also for being with my comrades. This is a united group, of which I am proud to be part”, he concluded.

In the wee hours of Friday, Palmeiras left Belo Horizonte for Atibaia, where conditions are ideal for concentration, rest and practice ahead of Sunday’s clash with Botafogo. A combination of results can actually seal the competition already this week: victory for the Verdão, paired with Cruzeiro defeating Santos and Flamengo losing points to Coritiba, will set corks shooting through the air.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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