Corinthians may have already won the league, but with eight out of the ten fixtures on the last weekend of this year’s Série A determining either a relegation spot or Libertadores qualifying place, it promised to be a weekend of high drama. It didn’t disappoint.
At the bottom of the table with Ponte Preta and Atlético-GO already relegated, two out of Vitória, Sport, Coritiba and Avaí would join them. Vitória and Coritiba were in the best positions since their destiny was in their own hands. Sport and Avaí faced strong opposition in Corinthians and Santos, although neither of those two teams had a lot to play for since Corinthians had already won the league and Santos had already qualified for next year’s Copa Libertadores. Coritiba and Vitória had the more difficult looking figures, against Chapecoense and Flamengo, who were fighting for places in next year’s Copa Libertadores.
At the other end of the table, eight Brazilian clubs would qualify for next year’s Copa Libertadores following Grêmio’s victory in the final of this year’s Copa Libertadores. The top six placed teams in the Série A would qualify for the group stages, while the 7th and 8th would have to enter the qualifying rounds.
Corinthians, Palmeiras, Santos, Grêmio and Cruzeiro had all already qualified, but seven clubs were fighting for the final three places. Going into the last game, the coveted sixth place was occupied by Flamengo, who were separated from their city rivals Vasco on goal difference, while Botafogo were a further point back in eighth. Chapecoense and Atlético-MG were another point back in 9th and 10th. Bahia and São Paulo both had a mathematical chance of finishing eighth but they would have to win and hope other results went their way. Unlikely.
Holding onto sixth spot would mean avoiding a potential banana skin in the Libertadores qualifying rounds and reduce the about of tiring continental travel, around that thime when State Championships would be reaching their climax.
The first important goal of the afternoon came in Chapecó, where Kleber opened the scoring for Coritiba in the 15th minute. Their lead lasted little more than 20 minutes as Elicarlos scored for Chapecoense. At around the same time Carlos Eduardo scored for Vitória. Avaí were drawing 1-1 with Santos and the game between Sport and Corinthians was goalless. At half time then, Vitória and Coritiba were staying up, while Sport and Avaí were going down.
In the Libertadores positions, Flamengo were surrendering sixth spot to Vasco, who were leading Ponte Preta by a goal to nil at half time. Botafogo were still in eighth since they were drawing, as were Chapecoense and Atlético-MG in their respective games.
In the second half, Flamengo eventually equalised against Vitória through Rafael Vaz with 16 minutes left, but Vasco had just gone into a two goal lead against Ponte Preta meaning that at this stage Vasco were finishing sixth.
In the battle for 8th, Botafogo, who had squandered a lead against Cruzeiro, equalised with 20 minutes to play. With Atlético-MG and Chapecoense drawing their games, that goal put Botafogo back in eighth.
Meanwhile, at the bottom, Sport had taken a lead against Corinthians meaning that as things stood, Sport and Vitória were staying and Coritiba and Avaí were going down. Adding to the drama was a power cut in Belo Horizonte, which caused a delay to Atlético-MG’s game with Grêmio. Catch your breath.
For most of the afternoon it looked like Vasco would finish in 6th, Botafogo would hold on to 8th and that Coritiba and Avaí would be going down.
In Salvador, Vitória were staying up as it stood, but they knew that a goal for Coritiba or Avaí would send them down, unless they found a winner. As it happened they had two great chances to win their game with Flamengo, in the last five minutes and seal their place in the top division. On the first, the ball dropped agonisingly wide of the post, and on the second André Lima shot straight at the keeper when it looked easier to score.
The clock ticked on and as it stood Vitória were still staying up. But two minutes into extra time Flamengo won a free kick, about 10 yards outside the Vitória box. It took several minutes for the ref to sort out the wall and for Diego to finally hit it.
He did. Straight into the wall and a few seconds later the ref blew his whistle. Corner? No. Full time? No. Penalty. In the 94th minute. Score this and Vitória were down. Coritiba and Chapecoense were still tied, meaning that Coritiba would be staying up. Avaí were drawing with Santos but a goal for them, a draw for Coritiba and a loss for Vitória would keep Avaí up. Avaí almost scored in their game and Vanderlei made a good save from a Luanzinho shot in the 92nd minute!
Meanwhile, back in Salvador, minute and a half had passed before Diego stepped up to take the penalty in the 5th minute of injury time against Vitória. Finally, he took it. And finally, he scored. With the clock on 95:02. Chapecoense and Coriba still tied. No wait. Chapecoense have scored. In the 95th minute. Chapecoense 2 Coritiba 1. Coritiba are going down. Its all over here. Its all over there. And its over down in Santos. And all of a sudden it had ended.
Coritiba were staying up for around two seconds, before getting relegated less than a minute later. Meanwhile, Chapecoense’s goal, and Botafogo’s failure to beat Cruzeiro meant that Chapecoense would finish in 8th. They go into the 2018 Copa Libertadores qualifying round along with Vasco, who were knocked into 7th by Flamengo’s late goal. Atlético-MG’s game with Grêmio was still running, but behind schedule due to the power cut, but even if they won, which they eventually did, they wouldn’t catch Chapecoense due to an inferior number of wins (the criteria that separates teams tied on points before goal difference).
In the other games, São Paulo and Bahia played out a 1-1 draw in São Paulo. Ultimately a win for either side wouldn’t have been enough for them to classify for the Libertadores. Atlético-MG made it hard work beating Grêmio, who fielded a bunch of kids since their entire first team was nursing a hangover after winning the Copa Libertadores only a few days earlier.
In the matches that didn’t really matter, Atlético-PR ended a difficult season on a high by beating Palmeiras 3-0. They finished 13th although some of their fans took great satisfaction at the demise of city rivals Coritiba. Already relegated Atlético-GO and Fluminense drew 1-1 with 20-year old Wendel scoring for Fluminense, in what is likely to be his last game for the club before he moves to Paris Saint Germain for €10 million.
Results and final league standings:
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For more results and other up to date information on the Brazilian league, check out the dedicated Série A page.
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