Brasileirão Week 25: Gallant Galo, Soteldo’s Showboating and a Momentous Night at Nabizão

The first legs of the Copa Libertadores semi-finals may have had the attention of South America, but the most competitive top-flight in the world was at its bonkers best over round 25 this weekend. With Vanderlei Luxembourgo’s departure leaving Corinthians managerless, they faced city rivals São Paulo in what was not the only clássico of the weekend as Coritiba and Athletico Paranaense faced off for bragging rights in Curitiba. With high-stakes six-pointers at both ends of the table also on the menu, it was an action-packed weekend – covered as always in BTL’s Brasileirão round-up!


Despite the city rivals facing off at Morumbi, it was two other clubs from the state of São Paulo who contested the weekend’s showpiece event – rotating his entire starting XI after Libertadores semi-final action against Boca Juniors, Palmeiras boss Abel Ferreira faced a fellow countryman in Pedro Caixinha’s Red Bull Bragantino, with 17-year-old starlet Endrick being given a rare league chance from the start. Just 15 minutes into the encounter, the Madrid-bound striker made it count with a sixth goal of the season, racing beyond goalkeeper Cleiton to slide home into an empty net in the only goal of the first half. 


Unbeaten in eight home league outings however, Braga weren’t going to let the second half pass them by. When Juninho Capixaba’s cross was handled by Richard Rios, an Eduardo Sasha penalty had the scoring level, and it was a sign of things to come in what would be a dominant first half display by the hosts. As the Brasileirão holders tried desperately to see it out for a point, their plans to do so would be fumbled in the dying embers – as half-time substitute Eric Ramires completed a sensational second-half turnaround, popping up at the back post for his first league goal of the season to take his side up to second place in the league table. They couldn’t, could they?



A first-ever Copa do Brasil Final win followed by a 2-1 victory in a rescheduled fixture with Coritiba had São Paulo bouncing into their home meeting with city rivals Corinthians, who themselves had just sacked Vanderlei Luxemburgo – but the new manager bounce was evident almost instantly as interim boss Sídnei Lobo celebrated an excellent opener from Ángel Romero, netting after three minutes in his third league start for the club. The hosts responded brilliantly to going behind though, dominating the rest of the first half and eventually equalising through top scorer and talisman Jonathan Calleri redirecting a Rodrigo Nester volley home from close range.


Losing their lead just five minutes before the break, the visitors were unable to contain the momentum of a highly confident and free-flowing São Paulo side, and before the whistle came there was still time for Dorival Júnior’s men to strike again through an excellently worked second for Calleri – squared by Alisson, intelligently dummied by Nestor and dispatched by the former West Ham striker. In a second period in which Lobo turned to his bench, it was instead the wonderful attacking intent of the hosts that shone through for a 2-1 win, despite no more goals before the final whistle.



Sunday’s Athletiba Clássico pitted bottom side Coritiba – on a shambolic run of eight straight league defeats – against high-flying city rivals Athletico Paranaense, unbeaten in ten Brasileirão matches. To say that Thiago Kosloski’s hosts were underdogs would be quite the understatement, but a recent injury to Vitor Roque at least had their rivals without their star man – and with one of their first breakaways of the encounter, a free kick opportunity won for Victor Luis had both sets of supporters in disbelief as the seriously struggling underdogs Coxa took a shock 1-0 lead. 


Despite dominating the ball, the Furação found themselves up against a rare impressive defensive performance by the side with the most goals conceded in the division, with home stopper Gabriel Vasconcelos in excellent form. Before the first period was up, there was another shock twist as surprise mid-season signing Islam Slimani rose highest in the Athletico box, with the Algeria legend heading home his first goal at Couto Pereira to send his new supporters into dreamland.


Wesley Carvalho’s side tested the hosts further in the second half, but found themselves unable to prevent a shock 2-0 derby defeat which is admittedly a mere glimpse of hope for a club still ten points from safety, but still easily one of the shocks of the season. 



In order for Bragantino, or any other club for that matter, to succeed in a late title push, they would need to hope that surprise table-toppers Botafogo’s recent downturn in form continues – and in a seemingly very favourable home meeting with struggling Goías on Monday off the back of three straight league defeats, Fogão fell behind again when impressive 23-year-old centre back Lucas Halter found the net with a bullet header. 


A response was badly needed for Bruno Lage’s men, and having been brought into action at halftime, it was Brasileirão top scorer Tiquinho Soares who stepped forward again to equalise with a stunning first league goal since July. Despite the momentum boost however, it was to be a priceless point for Esmeraldino, and another disappointment for Lage whose record is beginning to look very damning in comparison with his much-missed predecessor, Luís Castro. 



A sensational run of form under Ramón Díaz has seen Vasco Da Gama make a rapid rise out of the relegation zone, but their hosts Santos had suffered a perfectly contrasting downturn in form over the same period, so Marcos Leonardo’s opener from the penalty spot was a significant one for Peixe. Red-hot striker Pablo Vegetti was on hand to equalise quickly for Vasco, but a quick-fire goal-blitz right on half time saw Tomás Rincón re-establish the hosts’ lead before Leonardo nailed home for a brace. 


In the second period, the match was plunged into chaos when diminutive trickster Yeferson Soteldo sensationally put both feet on the ball at once in a jaw-dropping flash of flair which went viral, causing Gary Medel to floor the winger with a highly dangerous tackle. The resulting melee saw Medel sent off along with Santos midfielder Lucas Lima, only for who else but Soteldo himself to add a fourth late on – sealing a result to take the managerless hosts back out of the danger zone at their opponent’s expense. 



A Libertadores semi-final for Fluminense understandably took centre stage this week, but their league hopes aren’t quite over with the top end looking increasingly competitive. Their patchy hosts Cuiabá were without a league win in seven, but a first-half red card for Flu midfielder Matheus Martinelli gave them a golden opportunity to change that in the second half. 


Their much-changed opponents were finally punished on 57 minutes through a cool finish from Clayson, before a brilliant, if unorthodox, volley by Alan Empereur gave António Oliveira’s men the two-goal cushion. A fine finish from Fernando Sobral was the cherry on top of a 3-0 home win, which Fernando Diniz will be hoping to swiftly make up for by booking a spot in the final of South America’s premier club competition. 


Their midweek opponents were an Internacional side eight places below them in the table, so Edouardo Codet’s men will be delighted with the 2-2 result they took from the Maracanâ – they made a similarly positive start against on-form Atlético Mineiro on Saturday as Codet sought victory over the club which sacked him earlier in the campaign, though a combination of wasteful finishing and impressive goalkeeping from Éverson had the teams level going into the second 45.


Galo looked like a different team after the break however, eventually opening the scoring on 73 minutes when Hulk showed that he hasn’t lost his acrobatic ability, netting a brilliant rebound after Alan Franco’s header was saved. A major error in build-up allowed half-time substitute Igor Gomes to secure a 2-0 result for the visitors whose outstanding run of form has them making a late push for the Libertadores places, whilst last season’s Brasileirão runners-up sensationally now sit three points above the relegation zone with the worst attacking record in the division, having netted just 20 league goals this campaign.



Elsewhere, a late Luis Suárez equaliser secured a point for Grêmio on the long trip to Fortaleza, a Pedro penalty was the only goal as Flamengo beat Bahia in potentially Jorge Sampaoli’s last in charge of the Rubo-Negro and another local derby ended in a 1-1 draw between Cruzeiro and América Mineiro. 


Player of the Week: Yeferson Soteldo


A fan-favorite at Vila Belmiro now in his second spell with the club, little Venezuelan Yeferson Soteldo has always been an entertainer – but when he combines it with impact in a game, he is a unique wide threat for Santos. Dribblers with a low centre of gravity aren’t uncommon in Brazil, but his extraordinary height of 5”3 makes him difficult to dispossess at his best, and his link-up play with fellow key contributors Marcos Leonardo and Tomás Rincón was outstanding against Vasco Da Gama in his best performance of the campaign so far. If Peixe are to avoid a first relegation in their history this season, they’ll need goals – and Yeferson is evidence that they won’t just be coming because of their key man Marcos Leonardo. 



By: Martin Crawford / @crawford7martin

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Anadolu Agency