Out of this world hungover. No better way to describe the Palmeiras that Sunday came on against Ponte Preta for the first leg of the Paulistão semi-finals. With two goals down after seven minutes on the clock, it became clear our men were mentally still in the aftershock of last Wednesday’s epic victory against Peñarol. Ponte were on the other end of the spectrum, each player maxing out as if an entire career was at stake. Three against nil at halftime, fair and square.
In hindsight, coach Baptista’s error was not rotating the squad, putting some fresh legs and minds in Palmeiras’ starting eleven. His lame attempts to turn the tide in the second half were to no use: actually, we were much closer to 4-0 than anything else.
Although the São Paulo championship is the strongest state tournament in Brazil, it is only a regional competition: a Paulistão title is nothing compared to the Brasileirão, the Brazil Cup or the Libertadores Cup. Top teams tend to considered regional tournaments as workshops, where ideas are tested and the squad tweaked for the bigger challenges ahead. That is, until you f*ck it up, like Palmeiras just did. Then things get serious.
The second leg against Ponte takes place next Saturday, only four days before Palmeiras’ return game against Peñarol in Uruguay. Forget going soft against Ponte, saving up for the Libertadores game: out of respect for tradition and home supporters, Palmeiras must and will go full throttle Saturday in an effort to revert the situation, then embark to face Peñarol in life or death modus. Exhausting, sure. Nevertheless, the grim reality.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!