Brasileirão Week 9: Hulk’s Howitzer, Rony Reduces the Gap and Demolition Derby at the Maracanã

Things tightened once again at both ends of the Série A table this weekend, as city bragging rights were up for grabs in derby days in Rio and Belo Horizonte. With the transfer rumour mill in full flow, a crucial period beckons for some of Brazil’s giants, as the league’s unlikely early leaders find themselves under increasing pressure and the strugglers scramble for much-needed points. 


The first leg of the matchweek’s derby double-header took place at Parque do Sabiá, where the Clássico Mineiro pitted 2021 Brasileirão champions Atlético against newly promoted Série B holders Cruzeiro. For large parts of the game – which produced a staggering 40 fouls – it was Cabuloso who were in control, peppering Éverson’s goal and squandering numerous guilt-edged chances.


In the end though, the match was won by the moment of the weekend – 36-year-old Galaõ forward and Brazil legend Hulk rolling back the years with a wickedly struck free kick, which unbelievably rocketed into the net from more than 40 yards, sealing a 1-0 win for his side and catching eyes throughout the world of football.



The derby spotlight was shifted to Rio on Monday night, where lowly Vasco contested the Clássico dos Milhões against a resurgent Flamengo side indicated as strong favourites by the form table. Despite being heavily fancied, few saw Jorge Sampaoli’s men blowing their city rivals away with four first-half goals in what was a truly explosive display at the Maracanã, kicked off by a beautiful long-range strike from Erick Pulgar before Gerson rapidly added a second.


A poor first half turned to a disastrous one for Mauricio Barbieri’s men when Fla left-back Ayrton Lucas bagged an unlikely quickfire double to put the result well beyond doubt, with the 4-1 final score leaving Vasco still without a win since the opening matchday.



Unlikely league leaders Botafogo came into the weekend five points clear at the top having won all but one of their eight Brasileirão games so far, but their trip to Curitiba to face Athletico Paranaense was never going to be a straightforward one despite the hosts’ inconsistent league performances so far.


The encounter would continue the gameweek’s trend of being opened by a golaço – which like Hulk’s would be the only goal of the match – as Athletico midfielder Alex Santana’s blinding strike on the brink of half time lit up what in truth was a dull match. A definite blow for Luís Castro’s leaders, but Fogão remain top after their stunning start to the campaign. 



Botafogo’s loss was Palmeiras’ opportunity to close the gap at the top, and Abel Ferreira’s champions did just that at Allianz Parque against Coritiba. In a clash between the league’s only unbeaten side and its only winless side, it was the least surprising of outcomes as Verdão forward Rony grabbed a long-awaited first two goals of the season in a 3-1 home win.


For São Paulo however, it was a first defeat since the opening matchday as newly-promoted Grêmio came from behind to continue an impressive run of their own – claiming a 2-1 victory in an entertaining contest in Porto Alegre to lift them to a mightily impressive fourth in the table. 


At the other end of the table, Corinthians missed a significant opportunity to distance themselves from the relegation zone with a lacklustre 2-1 defeat to fellow strugglers América, who now sit just a point behind crisis-ridden Timão who stand out like a sore thumb as the Brasileirão’s underachievers of the campaign so far.


Much to the opposite of their city rivals Grêmio, Mano Menezes’ Internacional have also fell well short of expectations with their early-season performance and sit on the joint-lowest goal tally in the division following a 1-1 draw with Santos at Vila Belmiro, a result which leaves them languishing outside the continental places. 



Elsewhere, António Oliveira has found a miraculous run of form since his return to the helm of Cuiabá with seven points from his first three games following an impressive 1-0 win at Goiás, Fluminense rediscovered their goalscoring touch with a 2-1 win over Bragantino in Rio and an east-coast clash of two of the league’s most impressive coaches between Fortaleza and Bahia finished goalless in the opening match of the weekend. 


Player of the Week: Gerson


In a Flamengo display that was such a joy to watch on Monday, a number of individual performances seriously caught the eye – but the unique midfield marvel that is Gerson simply stole the show. Bought for €25 million by Jorge Sampaoli at Marseille in 2021, the pair have now been reunited in Rio and he is flourishing at last in the Argentine’s system – operating in the final third where he always looks at his best and polishing a magical derby performance with an assist and a brilliantly headed goal. Midfield spots remain up for grabs in Brazil’s national side, and Gerson is someone who absolutely has the talent to be an influential member of the Seleção. 



The ‘Choque-Rei’ between São Paulo and Palmeiras headlines next week’s Brasileirão fixtures as Abel Ferreira’s men look to reach ten games unbeaten at the start of the 2023 campaign, with high-flyers Grêmio also tested with a trip to face in-form Flamengo – every match will be covered as always in BTL’s Brasileirão round-up.


By: Martin Crawford / @crawford7martin

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Pedro Vilela / Getty Images