A title race for the ages is upon us in Brazil, where six clubs are all in with a shout of winning a sensationally close fight for a league trophy that once looked destined for Botafogo, who now face an almighty fight for their first league triumph since 1997 following a dramatic downturn in form. With so many teams closely competing at both ends of the table, some gripping matches were bound to come as a result – and that was exactly what happened during a week of non-stop Brasileirão action.
Following an utterly disastrous week consisting of two damaging defeats, faltering league leaders Botafogo had to recover rapidly for another decisive pair of matches against Grêmio and Red Bull Bragantino, third and fourth respectively and both eyeing a late title swoop of their own.
They got off to the perfect start in their first of the two tests though, racing into a sixth-minute lead through Diego Costa, before being pegged back just minutes later by Everton Galdino’s equaliser. We looked set for another goal-fest when Júnior Santos’ fifth goal in eight re-established the hosts’ lead before halftime before Marlon Freitas provided the two-goal cushion immediately after the break.
Fogão’s incredible collapse after being 3-0 up against Palmeiras last week was sufficient warning that things can change very quickly, and when Luís Suárez reduced the deficit back to one within minutes, a nightmare sense of deja vu was sweeping through Estádio São Januário. The nightmare would become a reality within mere moments when Suárez’s second drew Grêmio level in an extraordinary beginning to the second half.
Having started in control, Lucio Flávio’s men had once again completely lost their way, and their latest extraordinary collapse was completed by the sensational Suárez’s third after brilliant build-up from Tricolor – and unbelievably, Botafogo would lose 4-3 to direct title rivals for the second time in seven days, in a season finale which just keeps on delivering. Theatre!
— sportv (@sportv) November 10, 2023
Fogão had now lost four league matches in a row, ahead of their away meeting with a Bragantino side who themselves had been rocked by a last-minute defeat at São Paulo – but it was the hosts who recovered first to open the scoring through Thiago Borbas after just two minutes, inflicting yet more ruthless misery on a Botafogo side who easily could have gone on to accept a fifth straight defeat. However, on this occasion it was they who wanted to lead the comeback, bouncing back via a brilliantly hit equaliser from Victor Sá.
The resurgent Rio side did not hang around following their equaliser, completing a quick-fire turnaround with a second goal in three minutes, this one coming from Eduardo who found the roof of the net to put his side in front with ten minutes of the first half remaining.
A win would be a much-needed show of backbone from the leaders, but Pedro Caixinha’s men would push in a second half of huge significance to the destination of the title – and as the visitors held onto their lead while the game reached its later stages, another dramatic turn of events would be their downfall as Borbas headed home a seismic second five minutes into injury time, keeping his side’s unlikely title dream well and truly alive whilst further denting those of his opposition.
— Mario Almada (@MarioAlmad21704) November 13, 2023
Grêmio’s huge win over Botafogo saw them become the highest-scoring team in the division, and they were chasing more goals to boost their title hopes at home to a Corinthians side comfortably out of the relegation tussle following an improvement in form under Mano Menezes. With the hosts already heavily fancied favourites, an early VAR decision saw the visitors reduced to ten men with Bruno Méndez dismissed, leading to Timão director Alessandro Nunes storming the VAR room in a moment of mayhem captured on camera and shared worldwide on social media.
— SportsCenter Brasil (@SportsCenterBR) November 12, 2023
Nunes was presumably of the assumption that there was no way back for his club who faced playing almost all of the game with ten men, but when Renato Gaúcho’s side failed to clear a corner after 30 minutes, Ángel Romero’s opener stunned everyone in attendance at Arena Do Grêmio. With the lead lasting into the second half, Cássio’s goal was bound to be peppered as the home side desperately chased an equaliser – but massive chances for Suárez, Galdino and Gustavo Martins came and went before the match became 10v10 when Bruno Alves was sent off, it simply was not Grêmio’s day as they failed to take a golden opportunity to move to the top of the table.
Five consecutive wins – including their epic comeback triumph at Botafogo – saw Palmeiras instilled as title favourites ahead of the final six matches of the season, but their credentials would be tested in an exciting clash at the Maracanâ against fellow title-chasers Flamengo. In a rematch of the 2022 Libertadores final, Tite’s hosts got off to an absolute flyer through a dinked finish by on-form Pedro, before the Brasileirão holders found themselves two goals down before the half-hour mark when Giorgian de Arrascaeta headed his side into dreamland.
Whilst they had been comprehensively outplayed in the first period, Abel Ferreira’s side could not yet be written off having shown immense powers of recovery previously in their title push, but a professional foul by Gustavo Gómez being punished with a red card gave them an even bigger mountain to climb just three minutes after the interval. A makeshift Palmeiras defence would be breached eventually when Pedro helped himself to a second to complete a statement victory for the Rubo-Negro in another unpredictable twist in this season’s dramatic closing weeks.
The Fla-Flu derby followed just two days later, as the Copa Libertadores’ two most recent champions and Brazil’s most recent two managers went head-to-head at the Maracanâ. With more to play for in the encounter than their opponents, Mengão drew first blood through a flash of utter magic by De Arrascaeta, who left Flu captain Nino on the floor after taking the ball on the half-turn before netting with a clinical finish. The second half would be a frustrating one for Tite’s side however, as substitute Yony González equalised with his first Fluminense goal to leave Flamengo still five points off the top spot, albeit with a game in hand on some of the sides above them.
🇺🇾🎩 Que GOLAZO de Giorgan De Arrascaeta para poner el 1-0 de Flamengo en el clásico ante Fluminense.pic.twitter.com/TbIHvo99Db
— Mística Uruguaya (@Misticauruguaya) November 11, 2023
Having drawn 0-0 with Flu in the continental champions’ first outing since their Maracanâ glory, Internacional next stood in the way of Palmeiras as Abel Ferreira sought an instant response from his players. With the best home form in the Brasileirão, Verdão conceded a surprising amount of chances and possession in the first half, but a deflected Zé Rafael strike had them ahead at the break. This allowed for a much more comfortable second 45, in which Endrick celebrated his Brazil call-up with a typically vicious left-foot finish to continue his fine form before fine play by Vanderlan set up substitute Rony to confirm a 3-0 win.
Endrick scored another goal, man he’s unstoppable atppic.twitter.com/QnP9oOWSwu
— Dr Yash (@YashRMFC) November 12, 2023
An impressive upturn in form took Atlético Mineiro into title contention as the sixth and final club still in with a shout, but in their midweek meeting with Corinthians, Ángel Romero’s headed opener had Galo facing a tough challenge as they looked to make it five Brasileirão matches unbeaten.
One thing that can be guaranteed whenever Atlético are in action currently is Paulinho getting on the scoresheet – and as they chased an equaliser after the break, the Brasileirao’s most on-form player took the lead in the league’s scoring charts with his instinctive equaliser which secured an away point for his side – the 23-year-old’s outrageous recent form has him deservedly included in Fernando Diniz’ latest Seleção squad. Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side returned to Arena MRV for their following fixture against struggling Goiás, and when Hulk won himself an early penalty and fired home his thirteenth of the league season, they were seemingly on easy street.
A second-half red card for Igor Rabello had them regretting missed chances and having to do more defending, but the game’s all-important second goal would arrive courtesy of Galo left-back Guilherme Arana – dropped by Diniz in his latest selection – who successfully lobbed Tadeu after a one-two with Hulk. A late goal by Dodô halved the deficit but didn’t prevent Atlético from taking the three points, with the club from Belo Horizonte playing some of the best football in the country whilst their opponents languish three points from safety.
At the bottom end of the table, Cruzeiro had a serious chance at a much-needed win in their away meeting with second-bottom side Coritiba, who look all-but relegated – but Cabuloso’s performance was far from convincing amid their late-season slump into relegation contention after spending much of the campaign comfortable in mid-table.
As the game carried on goalless, Bruno Rodrigues thought he had won it for the visitors on 82 minutes, but his goal was cancelled by VAR – only for Coxão forward Robson to turn things from bad to worse for his opponents with an injury-time winner, with the 1-0 result costing Zé Ricardo his job at the Belo Horizonte club for whom an instant relegation back to Série B is looking increasingly likely.
GoaL! | Coritiba 1-0 Cruzeiro | Robson pic.twitter.com/agmRJEMYLM
— Larex sports (@npaakmph) November 11, 2023
Santos entered the week unbeaten in three as they continued their fight to avoid a first-ever relegation from Brazil’s top-flight – they faced a long trip to Goiás on Wednesday in a crucial six-pointer in the lower part of the table. With the reverse fixture having finished 4-3 to Santos in an absolute thriller, it was a fixture that promised goals – but it was a much cagier affair on this occasion between two sides clearly terrified to lose. As the match continued goalless, history from the 4-3 match did eventually repeat itself, as Santos found a winner in the dying embers when Julio Furch came from the bench to get the decisive goal in a vital win for Peixe, and a bitter blow for the home side.
It is difficult to describe how much Vasco da Gama have changed as the season has gone on, starting the season in abysmal form under Mauricio Barbieri before reinventing their squad after the impressive appointment of Ramón Díaz. A win over neighbours Botafogo lifted them out of the relegation zone last week, and they went from facing the top side to the bottom one in América Mineiro on Sunday.
Pablo Vegetti’s ninth goal since joining Vasco in August gave them an early lead, but Gonzalo Mastriani’s quick equaliser gave the already-relegated hosts a result to hold onto – that they did until injury time, when in a time of desperate need, it was time for Dimitri Payet to make up for lost time. Just his second goal in Brazilian football, a vintage free-kick to seal another huge three points for Vasco. Sublime!
Que GOLAÇO do Payet 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/P2j7zeFNfC
— ge (@geglobo) November 13, 2023
Elsewhere, Bahia are back in dangerous proximity to the bottom four after following up a poor 3-0 defeat to Cuiabá with a 1-1 draw with Athletico Paranaense and Fortaleza are without a league win in seven following their own 1-1 draw with Athletico and 2–1 defeat to Cuiabá.
Player of the Week: Luis Suárez
Of all of the hat-tricks in the glistening career of Luis Suárez, few will have been as decisive as his nineteen-minute rampage to drag his side from 3-1 down against Botafogo to a hugely significant 4-3 victory. In an extremely heated and dramatic title race, the experienced head of Suárez is bound to be an important asset for Grêmio as they look to win a historic Brasileirão title instantly after promotion from Série B.
This may be his only season in Brazilian football with Miami seemingly the destination for 2024 – but with 26 goals under his belt in all competitions this year, his legacy could be a significant one should he add a few more in the final matches of a compelling Brasileirão season.
Luis Suárez rolling back the years
19 minute hat-trick in Brazil 🎥✅ pic.twitter.com/dfAcvNpM5e
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) November 10, 2023
Just two more Brasileirão round-ups remain in 2023, as we will be back in a fortnight following the final international break of the year. Goiás’ meeting with Cruzeiro stands out in round 35 with the loser seemingly destined for relegation, whilst Atlético Mineiro’s meetings with Grêmio and Flamengo will both be of huge consequence in this mouth-watering title chase!
By: Martin Crawford / @crawford7martin
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Pedro Vilela / Getty Images