The fixture scheduling may be getting confusing, but the drama of the Brasileirão remains in full flow with no shortage of action in the most competitive top-flight in the world. The weekend’s main story in Brazil has been São Paulo, who secured a first Copa do Brasil in their history with a 2-1 aggregate win over Flamengo, sealed on a magical Monday night at Morumbi – but for the rest of the nation’s premier clubs, the focus was on league form as the business end of the season edged ever closer.
In a fixture rescheduled from round 15, Corinthians hosted Grêmio last midweek with the hosts having just ended an eight-match unbeaten league run by losing to Fortaleza. Former Chelsea winger Nathan gave Tricolor the lead with his first goal of the season, and his side were in dreamland five minutes later when star man Franco Cristaldo headed home a quick fire second – but as the game approached half time, but a Fábio Santos penalty halved the deficit. Incredibly, Lucas Veríssimo headed in an equaliser four minutes later, before an utterly extraordinary end to the half for Timão was completed by Yuri Alberto in sixth minute of first half stoppage time which completed an unbelievably quick turnaround to stun the visitors and leave them 3-2 down.
Both managers would have had words to say to their defences at the break, but there was nothing that Vanderlei Luxembourgo’s back-line could do to stop a stunning equaliser from half-time substitute Everton Galdino, scored just five minutes after the break. Corinthians then found themselves behind AGAIN just seven minutes later, as yet another quick-fire goal-rush saw Luis Suárez fittingly get in on the act to put his side 4-3 in front with an unstoppable finish – and this utterly mad game of football was not done there as Renato Gaúcho’s men threw their lead away again on 67 minutes, when Giuliano slid home the eighth goal of the match.
The pulsating encounter had more chances to come, with both sides chasing a 5-4 win in the later stages, but the game of the season would finish with the unforgettable scoreline of Corinthians 4-4 Grêmio. Futebol!
90 minutos. 8 gols. Um empate histórico no #NossoMelhor!
— Brasileirão Assaí (@Brasileirao) September 19, 2023
Three wins in five games, including a 4-2 triumph over city rivals Fluminense, had Vasco Da Gama on the best run of form of their troubled season under new manager Ramón Díaz – and their home meeting with seriously struggling bottom side Coritiba looked to be providing more of the same when Zé Gabriel headed them in front with his first goal in two-and-a-half years. Díaz’s men dazzled for their second, as a sublime exchange between new signings Rossi and Dimitri Payet resulted in the former’s first Vasco goal in a dominant first-half performance.
Thiago Kosloski’s visitors had a mountain to climb if they wanted to avoid their run of straight defeats extending to a damning seven, but just five minutes into the second half their goal was breached again through a fine finish from on-form Pablo Vegetti. On fire since being introduced to Brazilian football by countryman Díaz, Vegetti grabbed a second thirteen minutes later to make it six goals in six Brasileirão starts, with his form pivotal to his side’s upturn in results. Sebastian Gomez did provide a late consolation for Coxão, but the super-sub hero of last week Gabriel Pec came off the bench to score again and polish a five-star 5-1 win for Vasco.
💢 Golaço do Vasco de Ramón Diaz a partir de uma construção paciente.
🧠 Cavada de Paulinho para Rossi de costas, dentro da área;
👥 Tabela e assistência de Payet;
🦬 Gol de Rossi.
É um outro time.
— Footure (@FootureFC) September 21, 2023
Coming into the weekend after their show-stopping goal-fest, Corinthians had perhaps picked a good time to face league-leaders Botafogo whose previously unmatchable form has recently began to dwindle with back-to-back defeats to Flamengo and Atlético Mineiro. Fogão made a promising start to the intriguing encounter, but the game’s fateful moment came in the 22nd minute when a wildly high tackle from visiting captain Marçal was inarguably deemed a red card offence by VAR, reducing Bruno Lage’s side to ten men and instantly turning the tide.
Lage’s men managed to see out the rest of the first half goalless despite being a player down, but the whole of the second half before a rampant home crowd was always going to be a serious challenge. The leaders’ intention to sit back and protect the 0-0 scoreline was clear, but it would eventually be in vain as the game became a tale of two captains – Timão hero Gil, staying up from a corner, forced Lucas Perri into parrying his header straight back in his direction before firing home what would be the only goal of the match. Once looking uncatchable at the top of the table, potential history makers Botafogo find themselves weathering a mini storm as they approach the run-in.
— sportv (@sportv) September 23, 2023
Similarly to their midweek opponents, Grêmio found themselves in a challenging fixture as second faced third in their home meeting with Palmeiras. Leading the chase on stuttering table-toppers Botafogo, Abel Ferreira’s champions made a poor start in Porto Alegre, before right-back João Pedro capitalised with a vicious low finish against his former club to put Tricolor in front.
Having conceded four in their previous outing, Renato Gaúcho’s side put in a stellar defensive performance in comparison, despite sometimes relying on goalkeeper Gabriel Grando. For Verdão, there were chances and plenty of possession but no end product, with goalkeeper Weverton sensationally hitting the bar with a late header in their biggest opportunity – the end result takes Grêmio within a point of the Brasileirão holders.
⚽ João Pedro
➡️ Grêmio 1×0 Palmeiras pic.twitter.com/3VgcHYTmvN
— Gols do Grêmio | (43/45) 🇪🇪 (@GolsdeGremio) September 22, 2023
Prior to their Copa do Brasil finale, São Paulo had another challenge at Morumbi with surprise package Fortaleza who have recently themselves progressed to face Corinthians in the Copa Sudamericana semi-finals. Bang in form with five wins in their last six, Juan Pablo Vojvoda’s counter-attacking team picked their opponents off again through a great Zé Welison header to open the scoring after just sixteen minutes.
Their captain Titi’s blushes were spared just five minutes later when James Rodríguez saw his penalty saved by João Ricardo, before the hosts hit the woodwork on two more occasions in the first half – but after a debatable penalty was awarded in the second, it was o Leão who did get the second goal from the spot though Juan Martín Lucero. James made up for his miss by halving the deficit with ten to play, but it was too late for the hugely impressive Fortaleza to be denied another statement victory.
Marcelo Fernandes found himself in interim charge of Santos again in their relegation six-pointer at Bahia, with Peixe having binned Diego Aguirre after just five matches in their latest dismissal – their hosts were also off the back of a sacking, with Rogério Ceni off to a winning start having replaced Renato Paiva. Despite an entertaining first half where both sides fashioned chances, there were no goals until the second period when Camilo Cándido sent the home fans wild with a left-foot piledriver to break the deadlock.
Despite being dealt this blow, Santos stayed in the game before equalising via 20-year-old talisman Marcos Leonardo’s ninth of the season, setting up a grand-stand finish. The third goal would be vital, and it dramatically arrived when Julio Furch came off the bench to seal a seismic three points for the visitors, taking them within one point of exiting the relegation zone at their opponents’ expense.
Bahia 1×2 Santos
⚽️ Júlio Furch
🥾 Joaquim (2)
🏆 Brasileirão Série A | 24ª rodada pic.twitter.com/26KHQMjfca
— Santos FC Vila Belmiro (@SVilabelmiro) September 19, 2023
Athletico Paranaense would make it a stunning ten league matches without defeat by avoiding one at home to less impressive Internacional, so an opening goal volleyed home by Erick to put the hosts in front was exactly the start that most expected. What wasn’t ideal for Athletico was an ominous early injury for teenage superstar Vitor Roque, who left the pitch in tears on a stretcher – the future Barcelona striker is thankfully not believed to have not suffered a serious injury.
The Furação’s worries were compounded by a brilliantly hit equaliser from Carlos de Pena before the break, and it was all to play for in a level second half which ticked on without a third goal until the later stages. Pushing for three points to keep them in the top six, the hosts found the goal in injury time, when Alex Santana was the likely source of a late headed winner to spark joyous celebrations at Arena da Baixada.
Elsewhere, a goal from in-form Paulinho was enough for Atlético Mineiro to get the better of Cuiabá, Red Bull Bragantino’s excellent recent form continued with a 2-0 win at América and a contender for goal of the season was decisive in Fluminense’s 1-0 win over Cruzeiro – just take a look at this free kick from Leonardo Fernández, his first goal for Flu.
El efecto que agarra la pelota por el amor de Dios. QUÉ PEDAZO DE GOL.🤯
¿El autor? Leonardo Fernández 🇭🇺 pic.twitter.com/ojWwxfHzDO
— Brasileirão Play (@BrasileiraoPlay) September 21, 2023
Player of the Month: Pablo Vegetti
34 years old and playing in Brazil for the first time, it has been quite a few months for Pablo Vegetti since arriving in Rio as part of a mid-season shopping spree for Vasco. The experienced Argentine’s presence in the opposing penalty box is always a problem, and his brace against Coritiba this week showed exactly why, with two exquisite pieces of movement being rewarded with goals.
Picking one individual from a Vasco performance that was a joy to watch was difficult, but in a window where Euro 2016 winning West Ham and Marseille legend Dimitri Payet was recruited to São Januário, it has been the late blooming poacher whose performances have been the most decisive in a resurgent Almirante side.
Pablo Vegetti pelo Vasco:
7 jogos, 6 gols e 1 assistência.
Perfeita contratação do Vasco! pic.twitter.com/KzG5tLcwez
— Imperador Asiático (@JohnnTips) September 21, 2023
A clássico double header next week sees São Paulo welcome Corinthians whilst Coritiba chase a much-needed win against neighbours Athletico Paranaense – all will be covered in BTL’s Brasileirão round-up!
By: Martin Crawford / @crawford7martin
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Mauro Pimentel – AFP