Santos were beaten 3-2 by Colo Colo in the Copa Libertadores and their qualification hopes for the second round now hang by a thread (and possibly their hopes of hanging on to Ganso and Neymar beyond June too).
In truth, Santos deserved to lose by more than one goal. They failed to create enough clear cut chances, their defence was a shambles and the team looked like a bunch of highly talented kids thrown together without any orientation or leadership. And that is sadly, what they are at this point in time.
This season is all going horribly wrong for Santos. After last yearâ€™s brilliance when they won the Brazilian Cup and SÃ£o Paulo State Championship playing some beautiful football, itâ€™s all going pear-shaped. To start with, they have lost a great coach in Dorival Junior (who refused to back down over a row with Neymar and was fired). They also fired his successor Adilson Batista and are currently without a coach. Plus, they have lost Robinho (who returned from loan to Manchester City and was subsequently transferred to AC Milan), Wesley (now at Werder Bremen), AndrÃ© (prolific young striker sold to Dinamo Kiev) and one of last seasonsâ€™ best players Arouca (who is still with Santos but out injured). Sadly, Santosâ€™ rubbish defence are no better than last year and this new goalkeeper of theirâ€™s, Rafael, just doesnâ€™t convince me.
Colo Colo could have racked up a cricket score in the first half. Santos took the lead through a swerving Elano free kick but were soon pegged back by Colo Coloâ€™s direct and physical approach. Colo Colo were playing rough and Santos didnâ€™t have the experience to deal with it. Instead of letting the referee take care of the fouls and bookings, Santosâ€™ players were diving, trying to win themselves free kicks and get opposition players booked. They need a coach to tell them this doesnâ€™t work (Muricy, perhaps?) and to focus on their own game.
As it was, it was turning into a game of cat and mouse between both sets of players and the referee. Santos were trying to con him into giving them free kicks while Colo Colo players were kicking lumps out of Santosâ€™ forwards and trying to pretend that they werenâ€™t. The thing is, the more this went on, the more it worked in Colo Coloâ€™s favour. For example, at 1-0 up, Santos midfielder Danilo was through on goal when heavy tackle came in. The Colo Colo player missed the ball but he also missed Danilo who quite easily could have continued and would have been clean through on goal. Instead he fell over looking for the free kick and possible sending off of his opponent but nothing was given and play went on. A few minutes later, at the other end, Colo Colo striker Paredes was bundled over in the box by a clumsy Durval challenge. He didnâ€™t wave his arms in the air and appeal for a penalty. He got up, beat the Santos defenders to the loose ball and curled it into the back of the net. 1-1.
Colo Colo scored two more in the first half and it could have really been five or six. Two minutes into the second half, Colo Colo hit the post. Santos then went straight down to the other end of the field and equalised through Neymar after a brilliant pass from Ganso. You felt Santos had rode their luck and were back in the game. In the end they ran out of ideas and Colo Colo once again looked like the team most likely to score. They didnâ€™t though but their three goals proved enough. 3-2 it finished.