The 2023 Brasileirão is already shaping to become a memorable one, as Brazil’s giants remain neck-and-neck with one another in the top half as the table and the managerial merry-go-round continues in full flow. Following a week dominated by uncertainty surrounding the dugout at surprise league-leaders Botafogo, the Rio side would enter their meeting with city rivals Vasco without a head coach after Luís Castro’s decision to swap Engenhão for a linkup with countryman Cristiano Ronaldo at mega-rich Saudi side Al-Nassr – but on the pitch, there was plenty to talk about up and down the country in the most competitive top-flight in the world.
Athletico Paranaense’s anticipated clash with reigning champions Palmeiras was a glimpse of the future of Brazil’s Selecão and Spain’s El Clásico, as teenage strikers Vitor Roque and Endrick – soon to be of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively – faced off at Arena da Baixada. The latter got on the scoresheet after just 22 minutes, accurately converting with a low diving header before Gabriel Menino doubled the deficit with a deflected strike on the other side of halftime.
Having stumbled to shock back-to-back defeats, Verdão looked to be restating their title credentials, but the concession of a penalty to be converted by Vitor Bueno left them a man down – before the €45 million wonderkid Vitor Roque had his say with a header from close range to finish an excellently crafted move. The 2-2 draw meant frustration for the visitors who will be unhappy to remain in fourth, now a full ten points from the summit.
16-year-old Endrick and 18-year-old Vitor Roque swapped shirts after Athletico Paranaense vs. Palmeiras
The future of Brazilian football 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/ry1bKVHMzp
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 3, 2023
Newly-promoted Grêmio were the side who leapfrogged the champions into second place last week, and Renato Gaúcho’s men faced a long trip to Salvador to face fellow returnees Bahia in their search for a third consecutive win on Saturday. Argentine midfielder Franco Cristaldo fired home the opener for Tricolor in the first half, but 20-year-old winger Kayky produced a rapid response for Bahia with his second goal since returning to Brazil on loan from Manchester City.
Both teams had chances as they pushed for the third goal, and it finally arrived in the 94th minute – fellow youngster Gustavo Martins popping up at the back post for Grêmio with his first senior goal, continuing what has been a joyous return to top-flight football with a priceless winner for the club from Porto Alegre.
Belo Horizonte was host to a city clássico on Sunday as both Atlético and América Mineiro both entered derby day out of form, but that didn’t prevent a fervent atmosphere for what would be a brilliant match at Mineirão. Hosts and heavy pre-match favourites, Atlético raced into the lead after just two minutes with highly-rated midfielder Matías Zaracho’s excellently taken first goal of the season, before Marcinho’s dreadful back-pass allowed Hulk to seal a two-goal cushion for O Galão prior to the half-hour mark.
Few would’ve saw a second-half fight-back from the relegation-threatened visitors coming, but coach Vagner Mancini masterminded an utterly dominant second half display spearheaded by one of his three early substitutes, Gonzalo Mastriani, who headed the deficit back to one before his beautifully improvised finish secured an unlikely point which was the least his side deserved.
⚽️ Partidazo de Gonzalo Mastriani en el empate entre Atlético Mineiro y América MG.
🇺🇾 El uruguayo marcó los dos goles de su equipo, el segundo con este gran gesto técnico.
👏🏽 La figura del encuentro.pic.twitter.com/TxCQNuPl56
— BUYSAN (@Buysan) July 3, 2023
Despite this week’s unexpected twist for league-leaders Botafogo, their meeting with newly-promoted city rivals Vasco would prove to be business as usual despite the new presence of former Lyon and Newcastle defender Claudio Caçapa as interim manager – second-half goals from Luís Henrique and Carlos Alberto were the difference at Engenhão. Fellow Rio title hopefuls Flamengo were in action at the Maracanã on Saturday, where Jorge Sampaoli’s team made light work of awkward customers Fortaleza as strikes from national stars Gabi Barbosa and Giorgian de Arrascaeta secured an eighth win of the season for Mengão, who sit third-placed in the table.
Free-scoring Red Bull Bragantino were untimely visitors for a sorry Corinthians side who remain languishing just above the relegation zone following a catastrophic start to their season. Despite the hostile atmosphere in São Paulo, Pedro Caixinha’s men produced yet another fine display, grabbing their third consecutive league victory thanks to Edouardo Sasha’s fantastically worked sixth goal of the season being the only goal of the match.
In the weekend’s opening match between giants São Paulo and Fluminense in Brazil’s busiest city, the typically exciting visitors were largely absent from the SPFC third, but Dorival Júnior’s hosts would still have to wait until the 87th minute to get their well-deserved winner when, against his former club, flashy forward Luciano’s left-footed finish crept beyond Fábio for a 1-0 home win.
— Premiere (@canalpremiere) July 2, 2023
Elsewhere, managerless Coritiba remain bottom despite getting their extremely long-awaited first win of the season away at relegation rivals Goías, Internacional couldn’t make it four wins on the bounce as their hosting of Cruzeiro ended goalless despite a dominant home performance and Paulo Turra’s first league match at the helm of Santos could not have gone much worse as Cuiabá produced an excellent performance for a 3-0 win at Arena Pantanal.
Player of the Week: Gonzalo Mastriani
Uruguayan striker Gonzalo Mastriani picked the best fixture possible to produce the super-sub performance of the season so far. In the biggest fixture on América’s calendar against city rivals Atlético, his arrival into the encounter on 39 minutes was the turning point for his side, with his two brilliantly taken striker’s goals in the second half securing a deserved and valuable point for Vagner Mancini’s men – the brace could well be the lift-off moment the 30-year-old needs in what is just his second season in Brazilian football.
Mastriani saiu do banco de reservas para mudar os rumos da partida!!
¡ARRIBA, MASTRI! 💪🏿💪🏿
— América FC ✊🏿 (@AmericaFC1912) July 2, 2023
Former Benfica and Wolves manager Bruno Lage is among the early favourites to replace Luís Castro at the helm of Botafogo, who headline next week’s round of Série A fixtures with a second-versus-first showdown in Porto Alegre against high-flying Grêmio. Whether they enter the encounter managerless or not, hear about how they fare in next week’s Brasileirão round-up on BTL.
By: Martin Crawford / @crawford7martin
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Buda Mendes / Getty Images