Palmeiras 1-1 América Mineiro – quarterfinals await

Third consecutive game at home. Tickets as pricey as they have ever been at the Allianz Parque. Cold night (for Brazilian standards). Offensive line-up without two of the main players. A blasé feeling due to the victory in the first leg. All these ingredients resulted in a very boring atmosphere at the Allianz Parque, Palmeiras playing way below expectations.

The only initial doubt in the starting-eleven was who would replace Borja, Willian being ahead of his competitors. However, a few hours before the game, in a display of absolute lack of organization, so characteristic of the Brazilian Football Federation, Palmeiras received the notification that forward Dudu was on Tite’s stand-by list for Brazil’s World Cup squad and thus not available for play until 4 June, when the final list is to be submitted to FIFA. Without our captain, Willian took his place as winger and Deyverson was picked as centre-forward.
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Even with the 2-1 disadvantage from the first leg, América sat back on their defensive half, waiting for an opportunity to counter-attack. Palmeiras kept possession, but found little space to create opportunities. Add to this a referee who from minute one seemed determined to act in América’s favour.

In the 37th minute, América took full advantage of that sole opportunity they had been seeking: Rafael Moura passed the ball to Carlinhos, onside, who found Serginho completely free to open the scorecard. A result that would take the decision to penalties.

Palmeiras improved their game slightly in the second half, the equalizer to appease the wrath of supporters being scored in the 18th minute: with Guerra and Hyoran on the pitch, replacing Lucas Lima and Deyverson respectively, Bruno Henrique crossed the ball to Marcos Rocha, who headed it into the box to be met by Willian’s forehead. Palmeiras’ 200th goal at the Allianz Parque came in style.

Not much happened after the equalizer, América Mineiro’s limited offensive arsenal becoming the more apparent. Palmeiras could have nailed the coffin shut in the last minute of injury time, but João Ricardo saved the shot from Willian’s replacement Papagaio.
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Most importantly, Palmeiras are through to the quarterfinals. That being said, the team showed considerable difficulties in the absence of Dudu and Borja. Against Bahia last week, an excellent initial 45 minutes. Yesterday, possibly Palmeiras’ worst first half so far this season. Roger Machado better take full advantage of the two days of training available before Saturday’s clash with Sport.

Yesterday’s game gave rise to another concern: the attendance – 22.831 supporters – was the second worst of the year, only better than the one against São Caetano (22.597) early in the season for the Paulistão. For a game in the knockout phase of the Brazil Cup, the attendance was way below our standards. Ticket pricing must be reviewed: four home games in 12 days equals to a lot of money for avid supporters, something apparently not taken into account.

As already mentioned, the final game in this series of four takes place upcoming Saturday, against Sport. A victory is important to maintain Palmeiras’ position among the top 3-4 of the Brazilian Championship. Some 20.000 tickets have been sold so far. Palmeiras have submitted a request to the Football Federation, seeking Dudu’s release from the restraint of playing; our captain’s presence on Saturday is important for the verticality and pace of Palmeiras’ attack, and would also allow Willian to move back into centre position.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

– – – ooo – – – 
by Augusto Anteghini Oazi

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* photo credit: Cesar Greco/Ag. Palmeiras

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