A game of two halves, if you ever saw one.
Quarter-finals of the Brazil Cup, and Cruzeiro rolled all over Palmeiras in the first half, Cuca really asking for it. Zé Roberto on the flank is not a viable option anymore. Adding insult to injury, Cuca placed Edu Dracena by his side: excellent positioning, little pace. Thus, an open invitation for Cruzeiro to excel in fast transitions with the ball on the ground. Things did not go much better on the right flank either, where Fabiano had a bad night.
Although Palmeiras did create some chances in the first five minutes, with 30 minutes on the clock Cruzeiro were fully deserving their 3-0 advantage.
Thankfully, our commander drew the right conclusions and made modifications accordingly: after suffering the third goal, he sacked Fabiano, displacing Tchê Tchê to occupy the position. Zé Roberto was consequently displaced to the centre. And Egídio came on to fill Zé’s position on the left flank. Palmeiras improved.
At half-time, Cuca swapped Guerra for Borja, the midfielder suffering some physical discomfort. Dudu dropped down, more centralised, while Willian opened wide and left, mirroring Guedes on the other flank. With the Allianz Parque in a feverish state, Palmeiras suddenly meshed and equalised the score within 20 minutes: Dudu twice, then Willian.
Cruzeiro were at the ropes but used all their experience to cool down the game, holding on to the result until the final whistle.
Some final remarks:
Cuca is very stubborn. His initial line-up was insane. However, he reads the game well and acts accordingly. Knowing how to use players in different positions allows for much greater tactical tweaking.
Borja and Willian look good together, they grow, they open up space for each other. Borja yesterday was different, more aggressive, and more participatory. In short: instrumental. And more in line with what Cuca envisions.
Dudu is a true leader, captain, the absolute thermometer of the team.
The crowds at the Allianz Parque yesterday were fantastic. Several I spoke with claim it was magical, that never before have the Allianz Parque pulsated like in those first 20 minutes of the second half.
The comeback was spectacular, but the result in itself was not good: in order to advance, Palmeiras will need a victory in Belo Horizonte (or a draw by more than three goals). The second leg is scheduled for end of July: no way of telling in what shape the two sides will be at that point in time.
Grêmio on Saturday, 11th round in the Brasileirão. The current runner-up and Palmeiras are both likely to rest some players ahead of next week’s commitments in the Libertadores Cup. Let us find out who has the stronger squad.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!