Only for the second time since taking charge of Palmeiras, Felipão had a full week available for training and rest. With Dudu suspended for yesterday’s game against Atlético, finding the right substitute for the currently best player in the squad was a priority.
The starting-eleven against Atlético Mineiro was composed of Weverton; Jean, Antônio Carlos, Edu Dracena and Victor Luis; Felipe Melo, Bruno Henrique and Moisés (Thiago Santos); Guerra (Lucas Lima), Willian (Scarpa) and Deyverson.
Atlético’s recently arrived coach Levir Culpi had yet to win a game with the mineiros. Battling for a spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup, surely our opponent would be a hard nut to crack. Palmeiras adopted a cautious stance and most of the action concentrated on the midfield. Not until the 25th minute, an opportunity to score: Guerra received from Deyverson in prime position and Victor, the Atlético keeper, praised his luck as the Venezuelan’s conclusion hit his right knee.
Atlético responded in the 37th minute, Weverton saving the shot from Fábio Santos. Palmeiras had one last chance in the 43rd minute, with Deyverson firing away after a corner into the hands of Victor.
Already in the first minute of the second half, Deyverson was mowed down by Victor, but the referee chose to not award the penalty. The penalty did happen and probably would have been awarded, had not Deyverson sprung into the air, incrementing his usual routine in an attempt to sway the referee over.
In the 58th minute, Moisés asked for substitution and Thiago Santos came on. Theoretically, the team would improve defensively, but five minutes later, Elias received the ball alone and fired away a beautiful shot to score the opener.
Atlético could have increased the lead in the 67th minute, but Weverton saved Luan’s shot. Sensing the team needed to regain control of the midfield, Felipão replaced Willian and Guerra with Scarpa and Lucas Lima.
In the 75th minute, Scarpa took a free kick, lifting the ball into the box, where an advancing Edu Dracena had his jersey pulled from behind. This time, the referee awarded the penalty and Bruno Henrique firmly tucked it away to equalise the score.
In the dying minutes, Atlético tried their luck with a series of long-range shots, Weverton having no difficulty with any of them.
With the draw in Belo Horizonte, Palmeiras go to 67 points. A great result, considering Inter’s draw with Ceará and Flamengo’s defeat to Botafogo. The gap to the runners-up remains 5 points, but now with one less round to go.
FiveThirtyEight, a site specialized in predictions, indicates a 95% probability of Palmeiras bagging the title. Three victories and a draw mathematically guarantee the tenth title of the Brazilian Championship even if Inter win all of their remaining games.
The next step towards this goal is against Fluminense, at the Allianz Parque, on Wednesday. With Dudu, Mayke and Diogo Barbosa back from suspension, Felipão will have every man at his disposal to line-up the best starting-eleven possible.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi