Not since 1999 have Palmeiras and Corinthians decided a championship final. This one kicked off well: Roger Machado’s strategy worked perfectly, neutralizing Corinthians’ gameplay, seeing Palmeiras one step ahead of their rival to bag the 2018 São Paulo state Championship.
Coach Machado was able to field his starting eleven of choice, as Borja and Marcos Rocha were again available. And already in the 6th minute, the Colombian showed why he is the top scorer of the championship. Dudu took a short corner to Lucas Lima who immediately returned it, Dudu crossing it into the area. Dudu’s ball surprised Cássio, hitting the crossbar, before bouncing back to Willian, who found Borja well positioned to effortlessly push the ball into the back of the net. Palmeiras 1-0!
Corinthians, inflamed by their supporters, went for the equaliser. In the 9th minute, Emerson received the ball and got passed Thiago Martins, but his shot was saved by Jailson. Palmeiras responded with Dudu passing the ball to Willian behind the defenders, but Cássio sprinted out to save the home team.
Corinthians enjoyed superior ball possession, but created little. In the 20th minute, Jailson made an easy save as Clayson tried his luck. Two minutes later, a more dangerous opportunity: Sidcley crossed the ball but Maycon shot was off-target. The game was tense and no other clear opportunity was created during the first half. But just before the whistle, a common scene in any derby: confusion. Borja and Henrique fought over a ball on the deep end. The referee awarded the throw-in to Palmeiras, but Corinthians’ players kept complaining. Soon, all players were found in the centre of the argument and a few slaps and kicks were exchanged. The referee, not knowing what to do, in the end opted for showing one yellow card and one red card to each of the teams. Borja and Henrique received the yellow, and Felipe Melo and Clayson were sent earlier to the showers.
Roger chose to rearrange the midfield, starting the second half without Borja, promoting Moisés. Despite both teams playing with ten men, there was not much extra space to create opportunities. Roger had to burn his second substitution when Victor Luiz felt a muscular discomfort, sending in Diogo Barbosa to make his debut as a Palmeiras player.
Corinthians tried to pressure left-back Barbosa, naturally out of rhythm due to a rather lengthy recovery from injury, but to little success. In the 20th minute, Keno was ready to come on for Dudu, but an exhausted Bruno Henrique requested substitution and was attended: in his place, Roger sent Thiago Santos to close the spaces on the midfield.
Willian had a golden opportunity to score in the 31st minute, but could not conclude Dudu’s crossed ball. Also Corinthians insisted on crossing balls, but Thiago Martins and Antonio Carlos were in the best of shapes, denying the black and white forwards any opportunities.
In the 43rd minute, Corinthians supporters lightened up their flares and the referee had to stop the game, as the Brazilian regulation determines. When the game reinitiated, he added six more minutes to injury time. In the 50th minute, Thiago Santos stole the ball from Rodriguinho, near Corinthians’ goal, but failed to get the ball to Dudu, clear on his right side. The home team also had a chance in the last minute, but Jailson had no problem with Balbuena’s header and the referee finally blew the whistle to end the game.
As in the semifinals, Palmeiras play the second leg at home, at the Allianz Parque, and with the advantage of a draw. 24.000 tickets have already been sold to the return game this upcoming Sunday. However, the entire attention of Roger Machado and his players are now turned toward Tuesday’s Libertadores Cup game against Alianza Lima. It will be a tough week for palmeirenses around the globe.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
– – – ooo – – –
by Augusto Anteghini Oazi