As the second half of the 2023 Brasileirão season began, things remained closely competitive in both halves of the table despite Botafogo’s unexpected clear lead at the top – with newly promoted sides sitting pretty in the top six whilst other clubs live dangerously close to a first-ever relegation, the rest of the campaign promises to provide no shortage of talking points and storylines. Fluminense and Brazil manager Fernando Diniz also named his first-ever Selecão this week, with four domestic-based players included, two of which potentially set to make their international debuts.
Diego Aguirre’s first match in charge of struggling Santos last week could not have gone much worse, as a disastrous second half saw the Uruguayan coach fall to a 4-0 debut defeat at Fortaleza. His first home match this week was a challenging one on paper against high-flying Grêmio, and despite a hugely encouraging first half which ended goalless, Peixe fell behind early in the second when Franco Cristaldo fired home a fine fifth goal of his first Brasileirão campaign, against the run of play.
The hosts were unfazed by the opener though and soon set up a grand-stand finish when 20-year-old talisman Marcos Leonardo found the equaliser with his eighth league goal of the season – only Tiquinho Soares and Vitor Roque have more. Threatened with the possibility of dropping out of the Brazilian top-flight for the first time in their history, the home support were completely behind their new-look team, rejuvenated by six mid-season signings and the aforementioned change of manager.
As the sides neared the 90th-minute level, the result would be decided by an extraordinary sequence of events as a clearance looked to be leading to a Grêmio throw, causing Ferreira turn away from the bouncing ball – only for it to stay in play and be collected Stiven Mendoza, initiating a Santos counter-attack which was finished off by Julio Furch whose first goal in all-white sent the crowd at Vila Belmiro crowd into bedlam as their side secured a priceless 2-1 win, although they remain in the relegation zone due to goal difference.
A bola até iria sair sim
MAIS NOSSO PADRINHO QUE TÁ LÁ NO CÉU deu uma sopradinha
Mais um belo lance de Pele na vila
— Santista do Interior (@SantistadoInte1) August 20, 2023
Despite their victory in the Copa do Brazil semi-finals in midweek, it has been a turbulent period for Flamengo, with their Copa Libertadores defence having come to a shock Round of 16 end amid reports of several internal bust-ups. Their return to Brasileirão action on Sunday was a trip to face second-bottom side Coritiba, a task made more challenging by Filipe Luis’ concession of an early penalty, converted by Coxa top-scorer Robson. Gabriel Barbosa equalised just four minutes later when a foul on Wesley França gave the visitors a penalty of their own, before a header from Giorgian De Arrascaeta made it a first-half turnaround shortly after the half-hour mark.
Despite Flamengo dominating possession as any Jorge Sampaoli side typically does, the hosts still broke with some regularity, as new signing Sebastian Gomez looked impressive in midfield. The game’s fourth goal came within a minute of the start of the second half as a moment of calamitous defending in the Rubo-Negro box allowed Edu a free header to score his first Brasileirão goal, leading to an end-to-end second half where both sides missed chances to go in front.
As Thiago Kosloski’s men looked happy to settle for a draw late on, their hearts would instead be broken by a moment of magic from one of Brazil’s best players – Gerson unleashing a fantastic left-footed winner in the 94th minute, an absolutely unstoppable hit to conclude a five-goal classic and lift his side to third in the table.
— Flamengo (@Flamengo_en) August 20, 2023
Having spent the majority of the season in and around the relegation places, Bahia have been undoubtedly patient with manager Renato Paiva, who was up against Portuguese countryman Pedro Caixinha’s Red Bull Bragantino on Sunday in a clash between clubs in the City and Red Bull football groups. In front of a typically fervent crowd at Fonte Nova, it was the perfect start for Paiva when Rezende’s tame effort crept in for his first Brasileirão goal after just nine minutes.
Despite Bragantino responding well to going behind and forcing numerous saves from Marcos Felipe, the side from Salvador were in dreamland when former Fiorentina defender Vitor Hugo found the net with an accurate header, giving the visitors a mountain to climb in the second half.
Caixinha made three changes at half-time in an attempt to conduct a miraculous comeback, but the visitors’ attempts to get on the scoresheet only resulted in more counter-attacking opportunities for Baêa who made it three goals in consecutive home games when Vinicius Mingotti finished after being well-found by Ademir’s delivery.
With the outcome all but sealed, there was still time for Cauly – the outstanding performer of the day – to make it a memorable 4-0 win for Paiva’s men with an inventive finish, finalising a fifth victory of the campaign for the newly-promoted northeastern club.
FALTAVA O DELE, NAÇÃO!! Em um novo contra-ataque mortal, Gilberto cruzou na área e a bola encontrou os pés do mágico, arrasador, craque Cauly! O camisa 8 decretou a goleada na Fonte! 4 x 0 Esquadrão ⚽️🇳🇱
Créditos: Premiere/Rede Globo pic.twitter.com/xHEH31uXgX
— ecbahia.com (@ecbahiapontocom) August 20, 2023
Fellow newly-promoted side Cruzeiro came into their home meeting with Corinthians on Sunday without a win in five, with the club majority owned by Ronaldo Nazário having strangely collected more points in away matches than home ones this campaign. Facing a young Timão side with four teenagers in their starting XI, Cabuloso looked the stronger of the teams and grabbed a deserved lead when Rafael Elias – one of many mid-season reinforcements at Mineirão – slid home his first goal since arriving at the club from Palmeiras.
Continuing to create in the second half, the hosts still failed to add to their one-goal lead, and they would be made to pay in the end when substitute Gustavo ‘Mosquito’ Silva’s diving header found the top corner in the 96th minute to grab an unlikely point for the visitors, with their opponents having no-one but themselves to blame.
A 4-0 demolition of Santos last week ended a run of four straight league defeats for Fortaleza, ahead of their 4,000-mile round-trip to face Internacional in Porto Alegre on Saturday. Still awaiting a league victory under new boss Eduardo Codet despite knocking River Plate out of the Copa Libertadores, the hosts quickly found out that the long journey had not destabilised Leão as the visitors started brightly before taking the lead through a Thiago Galhardo penalty against his former club.
Notoriously plucky and hard to beat, Juan Pablo Vojvoda’s side were more than happy to let their hosts have possession for the rest of the encounter – in fact, Inter finished the match having had an incredible 76% of the ball – but despite hitting the woodwork from two free kicks, last season’s Brasileirão runners-up were unable to change the 0-1 scoreline and now sit just three points above the relegation zone without a league win in eight, and the second-worst goal record in the division with just 17 from their 20 matches.
Cuiabá’s meeting with Palmeiras was a clash between two of the country’s in-form teams, with António Oliveira having transformed O Dourado from relegation strugglers to top-six candidates since his arrival in May whilst the champions have recaptured form following a surprise winless run. In an even encounter, the first goal would always be crucial and it came after half an hour from the visitors’ outstanding performer this season – Raphael Veiga finding space to put his side ahead with a bullet header.
Despite the hosts’ top-scorer, Deyverson, dying his hair pink ahead of facing the club he played over 150 times for, the headlines would be stolen in the second half by an outstanding second for Verdão – Colombian midfielder Richard Ríos with a strike to rival Gerson for Goal of the Weekend, an outrageous half-volley which flew over Walter to seal a strong 2-0 away win for the Brasileirão holders.
— sportv (@sportv) August 19, 2023
There was sadly no sign of Dimitri Payet yet for Vasco da Gama in their home meeting with Atlético Mineiro at the Maracanã, but the match was still a vital one for Ramón Díaz’s side who are desperate to avoid falling straight back down to Série B. Up against an Atlético outfit whose promising early season form has completely fallen of a cliff since June, Vasco got off to the perfect start through another new arrival, 28-year-old winger Serginho who has only played in Europe in his senior career before now, as he latched onto a rebound after Pablo Vegetti’s header was saved.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s visitors dominated possession for much of the game, but truthfully looked unimpressive in the final third and failed to do enough to equalise as the early opener proved the decisive goal in the match, giving Díaz a second win in Brazilian football.
Elsewhere, league leaders Botafogo remain unbeaten under Bruno Lage after a goalless draw with São Paulo at Morumbi, Fluminense maintained their own unbeaten home record this season with a 3-1 defeat of América and a late equaliser cancelled out a fine Vitor Roque opener in Goiás’ 1-1 home draw to Athletico Paranaense.
Player of the Week: Raphael Veiga
Having made his debut for Brazil in March, 28-year-old Raphael Veiga will be aiming to compete for a spot in Fernando Diniz’ ‘Ganso role’ during the next international break, having excelled in a similar role for Palmeiras this season. An exciting, diminutive, left-footed player capable of scoring, creating and carrying, he was the key player in his side’s important 2-0 win at Cuiabá, opening the scoring with a rare headed goal and linking up effectively with Artur and Richard Rios in Abel Ferreira’s attack. On Verdão’s books since 2016, Veiga has enjoyed his best season to date this campaign and looks sure to be part of the conversation for individual accolades at the end of the year.
— SE Palmeiras (@Palmeiras) August 20, 2023
By: Martin Crawford / @Crawford7Martin
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Ricardo Moreira / Getty Images