Brasileirão Week 18: Dourado in Dreamland, Vasco’s Vital Victory and Another Hulk Howitzer

The most competitive top-flight in the world did not disappoint this weekend, as stunning results, even more stunning strikes and new summer signings had the nation hooked in a weekend stacked with talking points. The 2023 season has been even more unpredictable than usual, exemplified by nothing more than surprise league leaders Botafogo, and the campaign’s knack for producing eye-catching scorelines has made for compelling entertainment throughout – especially for the neutral. 


Sunday’s high-profile clash between Fluminense and Palmeiras was the standout fixture going into the weekend, as the Brasileirão holders travelled to face another one of the league’s strongest sides as both sought to make ground on runaway leaders Botafogo. Clumsy defending from Luan led to Jhon Arias giving the hosts the lead from the penalty spot, but Verdão responded well and applied plenty of pressure for the rest of the first half – the all-important second goal would however be for Flu as 21-year-old John Kennedy’s finish sent the Maracanã crowd into party mode. 


Boosted by new arrivals Marlon, Leonardo Fernández and Danielzinho, all of whom started and impressed, Fernando Diniz’s men played some fine football in the second half on the way to a statement victory, despite Gustavo Gómez’s late consolation. With the 2-1 result, both sides now sit on 31 points in third and fourth respectively, but a mighty run of form in the second part of the campaign would be required if either are to secure a much-craved title. 



Internacional and Corinthians both entered the season with ambitions for a top-six finish, but their form thus far has fallen well short of expectations. Their meeting on Saturday saw Eduardo Codet still seeking a first victory in charge at Inter, and it didn’t look good for his side when Renato Augusto gave Timão an early lead with a gorgeously cool side-foot finish. 


New Inter arrival Bruno Henrique was on hand to equalise just four minutes later, but in a close-fought second half, Fábio Santos looked to have sealed an away win when he successfully deputised for the imminently departing Róger Guedes on penalty duties – however, despite a late red card for Carlos De Pena, Beira-Rio would roar once again late on when Luiz Adriano headed just his second goal of the season to ensure a 2-2 draw. With Guedes seemingly a goner, Corinthians’ attention will now turn to awaiting new arrivals Matías Rojas and Lucas Veríssimo reaching full match fitness.  



António Oliveira has overseen a Mato Grosso miracle since returning to the helm at Cuiabá, and they hosted second-placed Flamengo on Sunday with no intentions of letting their incredible run of form go. In a fascinating encounter, the home atmosphere spurred the hosts onto a dominant start to the game, but their richly-deserved opening goal did not arrive until the first minute of the second period when right-back Matheus Alexandre remained composed for his first goal of the season. 


Jorge Sampaoli made changes as he sought change in the direction of the game, but a stunning solo second arrived from Clayson to send the home crowd into orbit and leave the Libertadores holders stunned. Dourado danger-man Deyverson has been on a remarkable run of his own, and with ten minutes remaining, his seventh goal in eleven league games arrived to provide a perfect end to yet another magical night for Cuiába – having taken over in May with the club in the relegation zone, Oliveira now finds his side in eighth and just three points from second in an extraordinary turnaround. 



River Plate legend Ramon Diaz picked a serious challenge for his first managerial role in Brazilian football, and entered his third in charge of bottom side Vasco da Gama with zero points from two matches despite positive performances. Facing a daunting opponent in high-flying Grêmio on Sunday, Vasco were valiant once again, taking the game to Tricolor in an end-to-end spectacle before the hero, in the end, was another Argentine making a late entrance to Brazilian football – 34-year-old Pablo Vegetti coming from the bench with a headed debut winner, sealing a vital three points for his new employers. 



As one manager made his entrance however, another slumped to a sensationally early sacking as despite a late Marcos Leonardo penalty denying Athletico Paranaense victory after Pablo had given them the lead in a 1-1 draw at Santos, Peixe manager Paolo Turra – only sacked from his last managerial position (coincidentally at Athletico) in June – was relieved of his duties AGAIN by Santos, after the result meant that they slipped into the relegation places. A seriously rough summer for the 49-year-old. 


2021 Brasileirão winners Atlético Mineiro unbelievably entered the weekend without a league win in eight – and on Sunday they travelled to face a São Paulo side boosted by the high-profile arrivals of James Rodríguez and Lucas Moura, the latter of whom debuted from the bench. The only former Selecão forward being spoken about after this game however would be Hulk – if you haven’t already, just feast your eyes on this truly jaw-dropping free-kick which was easily the moment of the weekend, the new front-runner for goal of the season and the catalyst for a priceless 2-0 win for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men, sealed by Cristian Pavón’s second-half penalty. 



In a significant fixture at the bottom end of the table, América Mineiro travelled north to Bahia in a meeting of two sides who, between them, have made no less than 14 signings in a bid to improve their fortunes in the mid-season transfer window. Before a typically rowdy crowd at Fonte Nova, a fine Everaldo finish gave the hosts the lead – remarkably making him the Salvador side’s top league goalscorer with just three goals, but shortly later, Gonzalo Mastriani headed home a second-half equaliser against the run of play. A superb finish from Cauly quickly re-established his side’s lead though, before he turned provider for new recruit Rafael Ratão’s first goal for Renato Paiva’s side in a 3-1 win to lift them out of the relegation zone. 


Elsewhere, league-leaders Botafogo spent much of their trip to Cruzeiro on the back foot but remain 13 points clear after a goalless draw, Red Bull Bragantino have risen to fifth with back-to-back away league wins after Sorriso grabbed the only goal at Coritiba and Goiás have also escaped the drop zone after their 1-0 win over Fortaleza made it four matches unbeaten for Esmeraldino. 


Player of the Week: Lucas Perri


Also selected as my player of the week in matchweek 14, Lucas Perri is seemingly in a two-horse race with Botafogo teammate Tiquinho Soares for the Bola de Ouro accolade given to the Brasileirão’s best player at the end of the season. The goalkeeper, who spent most of last season on loan in the second tier, has been an utter revelation this campaign and despite his side failing to beat Cruzeiro on Sunday, his heroic shot-stopping was the reason they escaped with a point. The 25-year-old is SofaScore’s highest-ranked player in the league as we approach the halfway point in the season, and his double-save right at the death was not his first point-winning moment of the campaign. 



Three-time Flamengo manager Dorival Júnior returns to face his former employers in charge of São Paulo next week, as James Rodríguez’s entry to Brazilian football draws closer – former El Clásico foes Luís Suarez and Marcelo will also face off in Grêmio’s enticing fixture against Fluminense. All the headlines will be covered in BTL’s Brasileirão round-up.


By: Martin Crawford / @crawford7martin

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Heuler Andrey – Getty Images