The night started better than most would have imagined, but the closure was again disappointing, Palmeiras remaining at an eight-points distance from leader Flamengo.
With Bruno Henrique and Felipe Melo back in the starting-eleven, Roger Machado opted for Moisés to complete the midfield. With Antônio Carlos still not recovered from injury, Thiago Martins remained in centre-lock. The rest of the team was the same as against Ceará.
The game was intense and well-played as of the first minutes. In the fourth, Flamengo keeper Diego Alves performed one of several brilliant saves throughout the night, this one as a response to Willian’s header. One minute later, Bruno Henrique headed the ball into the box where again Willian was positioned, this time to open the scorecard.
With Palmeiras in the lead so early, Flamengo tried to recover possession, but it was Palmeiras who continued exercising superiority, creating opportunities. In addition, Palmeiras’ defensive line was alert and allow very little to go through: only in the 40th minute Jailson had to perform a difficult save after Éverton Ribeiro’s header.
Palmeiras started the second half in similar fashion to the first, the blitz resulting in three very clear opportunities to increase the lead. Diego Alves saved the cariocas on all three occasions, already securing the man-of-the-match title.
For Palmeiras, as against Ceará, the lacking efficiency up front was severely punished moments later: in the ninth minute, Victor Luís granted Flamengo a stupid corner. Rodinei took it and Thuler’s header became the equaliser.
Two minutes later, Flamengo had a golden opportunity to take the lead, but Jailson saved the first shot from Vizeu and on the rebound, Thiago Martins intercepted Vinícius Júnior’s shot in the last moment, open goal and all.
The game cooled down. Some opportunities were created on both sides. In the last 15 minutes, a number of more violent challenges and the action heated up again, culminating in Cuellar’s charge on Dudu, which immediately escalated into a storm involving all players on and off the pitch, the coaches, everyone. The referee gave the teams three red cards each. On Palmeiras’ side, Dudu and Jailson, in addition to Luan, who had been on the bench.
The game ended 1-1 with both teams in the same position as previously: Flamengo at the top of the tables and Palmeiras parked in 6th.
As we come to the World Cup break, we can evaluate the year so far. In the São Paulo state Championship, Palmeiras were runners-up, assaulted in the final, the judicial aftermath predicted to carry on for considerable time. In the Libertadores Cup, the team classified as top dog and face Cerro Porteño in the round of sixteen. In the Brazil Cup, Palmeiras are in the quarterfinals after beating América Mineiro and will face either Vasco da Gama or Bahia (first leg 3-0 to the baianos). Palmeiras’ performance in these three championships are well within the expectations that supporters nurtured at the beginning of the year.
The Brazilian Championship is what sours the brew and makes Roger Machado’s work open for questioning by many a supporter. Palmeiras seem unable to reach consistency, alternating brilliant performances (Atlético Paranaense, São Paulo, Grêmio) with dreadful ones (Sport, Cruzeiro, Ceará). After 12 rounds, compared to last year’s edition, Palmeiras anno 2018 have the same nineteen points. In 2017, Corinthians broke free from the chasers. This year, eight points separate Palmeiras from Flamengo (click on thumbnail to the right to bring up the complete Brasileirão standings so far). We cannot allow the same mistakes happening twice.
The World Cup break is a good opportunity to rest our players; many of them had no proper break during the end of last year and the marathon of games has taken its toll. Equally important, Roger Machado will have time to finish development of the gameplay he envisions.
Moreover, there are changes to the squad. In the last few days, Palmeiras have sold (benchwarmer) Tchê Tchê to Dynamo Kyiv, João Pedro (was on loan) to Porto and Fernando (youth division with two games for the A team) to Shakhtar Donetsk, raising some € 14 million. Keno is likely to transfer to Saudi Arabia for a hefty sum (reportedly, the latest offer is some € 10 million) and Palmeiras is also looking at selling Roger Guedes, currently on loan to Atlético Mineiro and Brasileirão top scorer with 9 goals. With considerable funds in the bank, Alexandre Mattos is expected to aggressively enter the transfer market during the month-long break, bringing in at least two heavy-hitters expected to go straight into any Palmeiras starting-eleven.
As for palmeirenses, near and far… Let us seize this opportunity to relax and watch some football without the pressure of being supporters. Rest assured the World Cup break will be good for our mental health.
That being said… Stay tuned for updates. ; )
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi and Kristian Bengtson