Brasileirão Week 19: Lucas Lands in Style, López Leaves It Late and Coudet’s Wait Continues

The first half of the 2023 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A is officially done and dusted, and as a stunning mid-season transfer window roars on, the remaining 19 matchdays promise to be just as enjoyable as the 19 behind us.


As we looked forward to intriguing matchups such as Grêmio-Fluminense and Flamengo-São Paulo in the buildup to this weekend’s action, the Brasileirão welcomed its first-ever French player as Vasco da Gama announced the sensational capture of former Marseille, West Ham and Les Blues star Dimitri Payet, with o Almirante also now pursuing Roma legend Radja Nainggolan as Ramon’s revolution ramps up.


Diego Costa was also welcomed back to Brazil as he reunited with Bruno Lage at league-leaders Botafogo, but the high-profile departure at Corinthians was also confirmed as Timão hero Róger Guedes set off for Qatar. Flamengo’s face-off with São Paulo at the Maracanã was brimming with storylines, as Dórival Junior was well-received on his return to face the club with which he won last season’s Copa Libertadores final, in one of three spells in charge of the Rubro-Negro.


Current Mengão boss Jorge Sampaoli entered the encounter under heightened pressure following a chaotic few weeks, and in a heated first half, his team would fall behind to a magnificent goal from none other than returning hero and birthday boy, Lucas Moura – grabbing his first SPFC goal for more than a decade as he turned 31, strolling to the edge of the box before firing a low effort beyond Matheus Cunha. 




In a second half where James Rodríguez made his entrance to Brazilian football – fittingly at the very ground where he scored his iconic volley against Uruguay during the 2014 World Cup – the goal for his new club was to seal what would be a first away win of the season, but the task was much easier said than done as the hosts delved into a highly talented bench in search of the equaliser.


Despite chances for both sides, the match entered injury time still at 0-1, but a clumsy challenge in the box from Michel Araújo would prove fatal for the visitors’ hopes of the elusive win on the road – gifted the chance from the spot, substitute Pedro made no mistake in scoring the goal which could save Sampaoli for now, and confirmed a 1-1 result. 


Earlier on Sunday, all eyes were on Porto Alegre in an all-top-six cash between Grêmio and Fluminense, in an anticipated face-off between former El Clásico rivals Luís Suarez and Marcelo. As Brazilian-born Italy international João Pedro made his first appearance since arriving at the hosts on loan from Fenerbahçe, it was Fernando Diniz’ striker who would instead draw first blood as Germán Cano stabbed home his sixth Brasileirão goal of the season – but just five minutes later, the score was levelled by Arsenal-linked midfielder Bitello, who continued a highly impressive individual season with a composed finish. 


The half-time whistle looked to be arriving with the teams level, but the game would be successfully turned on its head before the break when Grêmio winger Ferreira – rumoured to be of interest to Celtic last month – picked out a fine finish after finding space with close footwork, in the injury-troubled 25-year-old’s first goal since March.


In a controversial second period, both sides would have goals ruled out by marginal VAR decisions, but Fluminense failed to convert any of their numerous late chances despite a dominant closing period and would fall to another away defeat in a campaign where all six of their league losses have come away from home. 




Coming into the weekend, Bruno Lage was yet to lose a Brasileirão match since arriving in South American football to replace Saudi-bound Botafogo boss Luís Castro – but when his runaway table-toppers welcomed a highly-talented Internacional side, the visitors’ focus was securing a first three points under their own new boss, Eduardo Coudet.


Despite the odds being stacked against them, an almost-cartoonish error by Lucas Perri – selected as my player of last week – led to Maurício launching Inter into a surprise lead, with the 22-year-old’s first Brasileirão goal since a brace against Flamengo on matchday one. 



Earlier this week, Botafogo talisman and Brasileirão top-scorer Tiquinho Soares was confirmed to be missing the next five weeks with a knee injury – but every time that Fogão’s title credentials have been questioned this campaign, they have seemed to have the answer. Despite entering the second half behind, the hosts quickly got into conducting another comeback, starting with Victor Sá’s first-time finish converting from Luís Henrique’s delivery.


As Engenhão was still celebrating the equaliser, the stadium erupted again when an own-goal from Nicolás Hernández turned the match around just minutes later, and the league leaders’ perfect home record this season suggested that that would be that. Henrique got in on the act with ten to play, and the 3-1 result re-establishes the thirteen-point gap between first and second in the league table. 


New Santos boss Diego Aguirre’s first match at the helm was the dreaded long trip to Fortaleza on Sunday, but Peixe could still look to Leão‘s run of four straight league defeats as a reason to be hopeful as they looked to ease fears of a potential first-ever relegation.


After a goalless first half, four would indeed be the key number – as Juan Pablo Vojvoda’s men absolutely wiped the floor of the struggling visitors, starting with a first Brasileirão goal for highly-rated 23-year-old summer recruit Imanol Machuca, before the visitors’ own mid-season signing João Basso doubled the deficit with a nightmare own-goal.



Late blows from Caio Alexandre and Bruno Pacheco added insult to injury, launching the hosts right back into form and leaving their opponents in the heat of the relegation zone as they prepare to cash in on another academy graduate to Chelsea, in the shape of Deivid Washington. 


A sudden loss of consistency has led to Palmeiras losing significant ground in the title race, but a win at home to Cruzeiro – without victory in five – would reclaim their spot in second place behind Botafogo. Before an expectant crowd at Allianz Parque, the Brasileirão holders did not look at their brilliant best as both sides lost players to first-half injuries.


Abel Ferreira turned to his bench as the match remained goalless deep into the second half, summoning the likes of Endrick and Breno Lopes – but in a heartbreaking end for the newly-promoted visitors, it was substitute José ‘Flaco’ Lopez who found a remarkable amount of space following Raphael Veiga’s dead-ball delivery in the 96th minute, simply guiding the ball home and sealing another important three points for Verdão. 



Vasco’s flurry of transfer business this week had the world of football talking about them, but on the pitch, the task remains a daunting one for recently appointed boss Ramon Diaz as they sit well adrift of safety. In a tough away fixture to high-flying Red Bull Bragantino on Monday, hero of last week Pablo Vegetti was on the scoresheet again, converting from the spot after 30 minutes following Aderlan’s concession of a penalty.


Sitting pretty in the top six however, the hosts were always going to be a threat, equalising shortly later through 19-year-old Gustavinho’s first senior league goal in just his second Brasileirão start – and in the end, a point was a precious one for Vasco who were on the back-foot throughout the second-half.


Thiago Kosloski’s extended run in temporary charge of struggling Coritiba has been earned by an early upturn in results, but they travelled to Corinthians on Sunday off the back of two straight defeats and still in the relegation zone. Timão, hurt by the aforementioned departure of Guedes, started the game poorly and fell behind when young defender Murillo deflected the ball into his own net – but the hosts entered the second half looking like a different team.


36-year-old Gil bundled home the equaliser shortly after the break, before Yuri Alberto netted his third goal in four Brasileirão outings to complete the turnaround before the hour-mark, but 2005-born winger Wesley finalised the outcome with a superb solo effort that stole the show – the teenager’s brilliance potentially easing fears surrounding the absence of Guedes, and the 3-1 win lifting the hosts five points above the relegation zone. 



Elsewhere, a resurgent Goiás side left América Mineiro dead last in the table with a hard-fought 1-0 away win, a great goal from Paulinho was the difference between Atlético Mineiro and Bahia and in a game delayed until Tuesday, a 2-0 Athletico Paranaense win ended Cuiabá’s run of six without defeat and lifted Furacão into the top six. 


Player of the Week: Caio Alexandre


At the heart of a solid, plucky, hard-working Fortaleza team, the magnificent Caio Alexandre is, more often than not, the standout individual. A tactically brilliant player capable of keeping the ball under pressure, breaking up play and playmaking from deep, the 24-year-old – on loan in Ceará from the Vancouver Whitecaps for over a year now – chipped in with a box-crashing run for his third goal on Sunday, capping off a dominant midfield performance during which everything Leão did seemed to go through him.


Enjoying more touches than any other player in the pitch, Alexandre proved what a vital presence he has been for Juan Pablo Vojvoda’s over-performing side, and whether his future lies in Brazil, MLS or beyond, his loan at Fortaleza is sure to be remembered as an outstanding 18-month spell. 



Next week’s round-up covers an exciting fixture for Cuiabá who welcome Palmeiras, whilst leaders Botafogo travel to Morumbi in an intriguing Saturday fixture and Vasco fans will hope for a Dimitri Payet debut in their clash with Atlético Mineiro. All will be covered in week 20 of BTL’s Brasileirão round-up!


By: Martin Crawford / @Crawford7Martin

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Anadolu Agency