Brasileirão Week 21: Diego’s Double, São Paulo Stunned and Late Show at Ligga

After an eye-catching week of continental action in the Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana, domestic action returned for Brazil’s clubs this weekend as an eventful mid-season transfer window nears its close with potential for more high-profile movement in the coming week. On the pitch, the battles for continental qualification remain ultra-competitive as well as the tussle to avoid relegation, as league-leaders Botafogo seek to sustain their so-far convincing push to win a first Brasileirão title since 1995. 


One of the sides in continental competition was Fluminense, who took a 2-0 home first-leg lead in their Copa Libertadores quarter-final against Olimpia ahead of their trip to face Athletico Paranaense on Sunday evening. Hampered this season by a poor away record, Fernando Diniz’s side went behind early to a goal from Cacá, the defender’s first Brasileirão goal in four years having spent the last period of his career in Japan – the key moment in the match would instead come nine minutes later though, when a controversial VAR call saw 20-year-old left back Vinicius Kauê shown a straight red card for a challenge on Leonardo Fernández, halting Furucão’s positive start to the encounter.


Known for their uniquely possession-heavy football, Flu had 78% of the ball with the player advantage in the second half, and could not put it to use until half an hour into the second period when Guga found the long-awaited equaliser with his first goal for the club.


Strengthened by second-half substitutes, Tricolor completed the turnaround eleven minutes later when João Neto got his head onto Matheus Martinelli’s cross for his first senior goal, which looked to have sealed a rare away victory for his side – but three minutes into injury time, the match took a sensational late twist when future Barcelona striker Vitor Roque stunned the visitors with a brilliant header to secure a late point for the ten men in a magnificently entertaining end to the match. 



Fluminense’s poor record on the road would still be the envy of São Paulo, who incredibly entered their away meeting with bottom side América Mineiro without an away league victory all season, despite being in the race for the top six spots. Presented with the perfect opportunity to change that against a seriously struggling side without a win in eleven, SPFC failed to score in a first half during which they quickly became frustrated by the hosts’ aggressive style of play under recently appointed manager Fabian Bustos, with Lucas Moura joining fellow big-name arrival James Rodríguez in the attack as a half-time substitute. 


Fifteen minutes after the break, the opening goal did arrive, but it did so against the run of play when an excellently worked América attack provided Coelhão top-scorer Gonzalo Mastriani with a golden opportunity he did not pass up. The composure Mastriani showed for his goal was completely lost just fifteen minutes later however, when a horror tackle on Wellington saw him sent off, shortly before Iago Maidana conceded a penalty to be converted by Alexandre Pato to put the the visitors in position to chase a winner.


Against the odds though, the ten men would have the final say, just as they did in Curitiba – when Daniel Borges broke through to set up 20-year-old Rodrigo Varanda, on loan from São Paulo’s city rivals Corinthians, who fired home to secure a vital three points for the Belo Horizonte club and spark ecstatic celebrations at Estádio Independência.




Having comfortably avoided dropping straight back down to Série B last season, Goías continued their typically trigger-happy approach to sacking managers by replacing Guto Ferreira with Arouca boss Armando Evangelista in June, and the 49-year-old has now firmly found his feet in his first role outside of Europe with a run of six without defeat ahead of their away meeting with Corinthians on Sunday.


Having lost several important players in the summer window with Nottingham Forest target Murillo looking likely to follow, Timão are very much in a period of transition but still did the majority of the attacking in a first half that finished goalless. Starting with a rotated lineup following their Sudamericana tie in midweek, the hosts made changes early in the second half, but a penalty conceded by Matheus Bidú instead meant that Esmeraldino would break the deadlock with Guilherme Marques’ conversion on 59 minutes.


A victory for the visitors would lift them above Corinthians in the table and into the Sudamericana places, but their resolve would be tested in the later stages before a noisy home crowd, and the equaliser arrived did arrive courtesy of a header from Maycon – but the 1-1 result, in the end, was a frustrating one for Vanderlei Luxembourgo’s men. 


A goalless draw with São Paulo last week was just the fifth time this season that Botafogo have failed to win, as the Brasileirão leaders remained unbeaten since the arrival of Bruno Lage in July. Bahia were the opponents at Engenhão on Sunday, but the Salvador side’s hopes of repeating the 4-0 scoreline they achieved against Bragantino last week lasted just four minutes before Diego Costa scored his first goal since reuniting with Lage in Rio.


Shortly after the interval, Diego struck early again when Gabriel Pires picked him out with a lovely cross to double Fogão’s lead, before a comfortable 3-0 victory was sealed by Luis Henrique with 15 minutes to play – the table-toppers remarkably maintain a 100% win record from their 11 home matches so far this campaign. 



Cuiabá became a real surprise package after their reappointment of António Oliveira, skyrocketing from the relegation places to top-six contention, but back-to-back defeats provided a reality check for the over-performers ahead of their tough fixture at Red Bull Bragantino this weekend.


In a clash between two Portuguese managers, home coach Pedro Caixinha’s more possession-based approach limited Dourado to very little in the first half, but it was in the second when they punished them with goals – starting with a sixth of the season for talented young Uruguayan striker Thiago Borbas before a brilliantly worked team goal was finished off by fellow young forward Talisson whose first Brasileirão goal confirmed a 2-0 home victory to keep Braga in the top six. 


Struggling Santos were desperate to carry the momentum from their surprise win over Grêmio last week into their trip to face Atlético Mineiro this time around, but they were helpless to defend a superb opening goal from Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men which was excellently finished by Paulinho after just ten minutes.


Pushing hard to equalise before the half-time whistle, Peixe would instead end the match without a single shot on target, as an energetic home crowd were treated to a dominant second-half performance by the 2021 Brazilian champions which was topped off with a second for the man whose loan move from Bayer Leverkusen has recently become permanent.


Now level in Atlético’s goalscoring charts with Hulk, 23-year-old Paulinho has rediscovered his best form back in Brazil this campaign after a tough spell in Germany, and his brace left the visitors in the relegation zone with a first-ever relegation a worryingly increasing possibility. 



The headline arrival of Dimitri Payet coupled with the so-far encouraging appointment of Ramón Díaz has Vasco da Gama fans believing that a late push away from relegation is possible, but any points return from Sunday’s away meeting with Palmeiras would come as a big shock with the Brasileirão holders currently Botafogo’s closest competitors in the title race.


Despite 16 places separating the sides in the table, Vasco held firm in the first half, even looking threatening at points in the second – but they were helpless to stop the game’s decisive moment which was also the goal of the weekend, a wickedly struck free-kick from one of the players of the season so far, Raphael Veiga. The 28-year-old’s stunning hit would be the only goal of the match, but attentions have since turned to fellow Verdão forward Dudu, whose ominous first-half injury has cruelly since been confirmed as a season-ending ACL tear. 



Elsewhere, Cruzeiro’s winless run continued as they were outclassed in a 3-0 defeat at Grêmio, Fortaleza made it three Brasileirão wins in a row with a comfortable 3-1 triumph over struggling Coritiba and Eduardo Coudet is still without a victory since taking charge of Internacional as they failed to score again in their goalless draw at Flamengo. 



Player of the Week: Adryelson


Botafogo’s defence has been in a league of its own this season, with the table-toppers having conceded just 11 goals in their 21 league outings so far. Lucas Perri and Tiquinho Soares have already been highlighted as pivotal performers in this potentially immortal Fogão side, but a defensive performance as dominant as Adryelson’s in their clean sheet against Bahia on Sunday makes it little wonder that the 25-year-old is being touted for a Seleção call-up.


Brought back to Brazil last year after a brief spell in the UAE, his aggressive, passionate style of defending coupled with sound mobility and natural reading of the game has made him an indispensable figure in his side’s unlikely title push, and the numbers from his performance this weekend speak for themselves. 



By: Martin Crawford / @crawford7martin

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Ricardo Moreira / Getty Images