Three days after the elimination in the Brazil Cup, Palmeiras again faced Cruzeiro, now for a different championship, in a different stadium, with a different team, but with the same ridiculous and biased refereeing. Fortunately, this time around, Palmeiras were able to control the emotions, breaking Cruzeiro’s nine games undefeated streak against Palmeiras.
As Palmeiras have a midweek game for the Libertadores Cup, Felipão opted for the alternative line-up: Prass; Marcos Rocha (Mayke), Luan, Gustavo Gómez and Victor Luis; Felipe Melo, Bruno Henrique and Lucas Lima (Moisés); Hyoran, Dudu (Willian) and Deyverson.
Due to an Andrea Bocelli concert at the Allianz Parque, the game was played at the Pacaembu stadium, where close to 36.000 spectators turned up – very decent for a Sunday morning. Soon after kick-off, Cruzeiro had one great scoring opportunity, but the header was off target. After the scare, Palmeiras controlled the game with certain ease and the opener was scored in the 23th minute: Dudu took a corner and Lucas Lima fired a volley that deflected off a defender, out of the keeper’s reach.
Behind in the score and without threatening Prass’ goal, Cruzeiro’s best player kicked into action: the referee. In the 31st minute, Gustavo Gómez placed his hand on the ball almost two meters outside of the box, but Cruzeiro were awarded the penalty, converted by Mancuello. In the minutes following the equaliser, Palmeiras’ players were visibly shaken, but fortunately were able to get back in the right mindset. In the 43rd minute, Dudu performed a one-two with Marcos Rocha and crossed the ball to Hyoran, who headed it to the back of the net. Relief!
Back for the second half, the Fox continued toothless. Probably looking to spare some important players ahead of Wednesday’s match, Felipão substituted Dudu for Willian in the 59th minute to almost immediate effect: in the 65th minute, Willian received the ball from Deyverson and crossed it low, the ball intercepted by the hand and arm of a sliding Cruzeiro defender. Gustavo Gómez stepped up to the spot and bagged it convincingly, scoring his first goal as a Palmeiras player.
The remainder of the game was basically counting minutes toward the final whistle, Palmeiras satisfied and Cruzeiro showing no signs of recovery. The one thing to note is Deyverson’s behaviour, once again provocative, annoying, unsportsmanlike, far from what is expected from a player wearing our colours. If Scolari is able to set this fool’s head straight, he’ll do humanity a favour.
São Paulo drew away against Botafogo, meaning Palmeiras are the new leaders of the Brazilian Championship, tied at 53 points with Internacional, who beat Vitória 2-1. Palmeiras’ unbeaten streak at the Brasileirão was increased to twelve games – nine victories and three draws.
Palmeiras’ next game is for the Libertadores Cup, the second leg of the quarterfinals against Colo-Colo, at the Allianz Parque. The two-goal advantage from the away game puts Palmeiras in a very comfortable position, but the memory of the terrifying experience in the round of 16 – when Melo was sent off with three minutes on the clock, putting everything at risk – lingers fresh and our players must stay extremely focused to secure that spot as one of the four best teams of the Americas.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi and Kristian Bengtson