The Brasileirão is back, and eight months of uniquely enthralling football are finally underway. With some of the most reputable players in the world having been brought to Brazil in the transfer window and the division’s four newly promoted sides each being among the nation’s most recognisable, there is a sense that the 2023 Serie A is the most ‘proper’ the division has looked for a while – and the opening weekend did not disappoint.
For league holders Palmeiras, it was the child-prodigy Endrick who grabbed the headlines as his instinctive campaign opener justified manager Abel Ferreira’s decision to start the 16-year-old who will of course make his move to Real Madrid next summer. Despite a 2–1 victory, it admittedly wasn’t the most glamorous performance from the champions who saw Ferreira shown a red card just before half-time before the visitors themselves had midfielder Filipe Augusto sent off after equalising. José Lopez fired home the eventual winner.
16-YEAR-OLD ENDRICK. 🌟
The first goal of the Brasileiro Série A season. 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/pUe5xsbTTu
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) April 15, 2023
The shock of the opening weekend came in Belo Horizonte, where Atlético Mineiro were blown away by two Vasco Da Gama goals in the opening ten minutes, one of which was headed in by Chelsea loanee Andrey Santos. Atlético dominated proceedings from then-onwards but the damage was done, as the hosts huffed and puffed but only halved the deficit and fell 2–1 to a newly-promoted Vasco inspired by heroics from goalkeeper Léo Jardim, recently recruited from LOSC Lille.
A major disappointment for new Galo manager Edouardo Codet before his home fans. Despite a tumultuous 2023 so far, Flamengo weren’t to let their home crowd down as new boss Jorge Sampaoli watched among them. Left-back Ayrton Lucas’ blinding strike – the best of the gameweek – got them off to the perfect start against Coritiba, before Gabi Barbosa ended his uncharacteristic goal drought from the spot in the second half and Pedro came from the bench to seal a 3–0 win.
The loudest roar at the Maracana however was for a substitution – as Bruno Henrique took to the pitch for the first time since June last year, the former Libertadores MVP making a long-awaited recovery from a serious knee injury in an emotional moment. Carioca winners Fluminense also met expectations with an opening day win at América, inspired by an exceptional performance from the bench by 25-year-old forward Lelê who spent last year on loan in the third tier – the evergreen Germán Cano also continued his outrageously good 2023 with a strike in Flu’s 3–0 win.
QUE MOMENTO MEUS AMIGOS, O BRUNO HENRIQUE ESTÁ DE VOLTA!!!!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/Kfya2InFIc
— jpᶜʳᶠ (@wolfkickss) April 16, 2023
Fernando Lázaro’s first Brasileirão match in permanent charge of Corinthians saw Timão grab a 2–1 win over Cruzeiro, who couldn’t mark their return to Serie A with a positive result. This wasn’t to be the case for Gremio however, who managed to edge out Santos in a tight contest at Estádio Alfredo Jaconi thanks to a great strike from right-back João Pedro.
The match was hotly anticipated as the Brazilian top-flight debut of Luis Suárez who sensationally fluffed his lines with a second-half penalty miss, skying from the spot in incredible fashion. Tiquinho Soares did find the net in the opening weekend however, opening the scoring in Botafogo’s dramatic if unfashionable 2–1 win over São Paulo.
Luis Suarez missed a penalty on his Serie A debut for Gremio 😳 pic.twitter.com/MJ5eskS6fk
— GOAL (@goal) April 17, 2023
Elsewhere, International took a point from Fortaleza at the Castelão, Athletico took care of Goiás in Curitiba and Red Bull Bragantino defeated Bahia in a peculiar meeting between two clubs owned by the Red Bull and City Football groups respectively – no Artur, no problems for Bragantino.
Player of the Week: Léo Jardim
Vasco Da Gama’s unlikely victory at Atlético Mineiro was never going to arrive without an almighty defensive effort, and on the night it was their new 28-year-old stopper that they had to thank more than anyone else. Saving no less than 5 Atlético shots from inside the penalty area, Jardim capped off his heroics by denying a vicious Isaac volley in stoppage time at the end of the game – Fluminense super-sub Lelê is a worthy honourable mention.
Essa defesa do Léo Jardim, foi putaria demais. 🧤⚽️💢
(📽: SporTV) pic.twitter.com/BoNjKYZfUs
— SOMOS ✠ GIGANTES (@somosgigantes_2) April 16, 2023
Continental action beckons this midweek for clubs in South America as round 2 of the group stages commences in the Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana – but the action resumes next weekend as Jorge Sampaoli takes charge of his first league match at Flamengo in a tough away fixture against Internacional, amongst nine other fixtures.
By: Martin Crawford / @crawford7martin
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Anadolu Agency