On one side, a rested bunch, eager to show improvement after a week of training. On the other, a team that played in Japan on Tuesday, returned to Brazil on Thursday after a 30-hour ride, daydreaming about getting out of the relegation zone.
Nothing but a perfect setting for Cuca and Palmeiras to show evolution, pleasing the crowds with Moisés and Guerra together for the first time on the midfield, and with Willian back in offense after four weeks in the medical department.
As expected, Chape played defensively, exploring the occasional counter-attack. Palmeiras showed their habitual difficulty in penetrating two compact lines of four, not helped by Chapecoense taking every opportunity to delay the game, including the use of excessive force. We were heading toward a goalless first half, but a badly positioned defence accepted a set piece from Chape, leaving Fernando Prass to scoop the ball out from the back of the net.
Palmeiras came back more aggressive, with Tchê Tchê and Keno replacing Thiago Santos and Roger Guedes respectively, and things improved somewhat. In the last 20 minutes, Borja came on for Willian. It was play against one goal, pressure a plenty, but with a pinball feel to it, the fluke factor reigning. Far from impressive.
In the dying minute, another moment of inattention from our defense to further drive the point home.
The result is unacceptable. Palmeiras’ performance is unacceptable. Nine months ago, there practically was no Chapecoense, team and staff wiped out in the dreadful plane crash in Colombia. Palmeiras’ excuse for less than expected performance throughout the year has been the coach swap, Cuca for Baptista, in early May (mind you Chape swapped coach some two months ago). Put those two club realities – Palmeiras and Chapecoense – into perspective.
Cuca has no credit left, no more fat to burn. Next Sunday, Palmeiras receive relegation-threatened São Paulo FC at the Allianz Parque. Anything but victory against the archenemy will see Cuca in a very uncomfortable position. And yes, that is quite the understatement.