Palmeiras take another big step towards Serie A title

Dudu kisses the Palmeiras badge (Pic: Lucas Tavares / Dia Esportivo / Estadao Conteudo)

Palmeiras maintained their four point advantage at the top of the league after holding their main title rivals Flamengo to a draw.

Palmeiras are in the middle of a season-defining week and their potentially title-deciding match against Flamengo on Saturday was sandwiched in between two Copa Libertadores semi finals against Boca Juniors.

The week got off to a lousy start last Wednesday as an unambitious Palmeiras slumped to a 2-0 defeat away to Boca Juniors. Big Phil Scolari – who has silenced his many doubters including myself after his team have been in sensational form since he took over as manager earlier this season – tried to put a brave face on the loss to Boca Juniors. But the reality was that that result was a massive blow; not only didn’t they perform to their potential, but they comfortably beat Boca Juniors at the same ground earlier this year.

Given that backdrop going into Saturday’s game against Flamengo at a packed Maracana stadium, coming away with a draw was an excellent result for Palmeiras. They maintain their gap at the top of the league, with one less game to go. Not only did their title chances receive a serious boost, but that result will give them a lot more tranquility and belief going into this Wednesday’s Copa Libertadores semi final second leg. It was the Palmeiras fans that remained in the Maracanã stadium, singing long after the final whistle.

Palmeiras were quite happy to let Flamengo take the ball, given that the onus was on them to try and win the game, and impress their own fans. Flamengo had nearly three quarters of the ball possession in that first half, but they didn’t do much with it. Vitinho, a player who often flatters to deceive, was giving the Palmeiras stand-in right back Luan a rough time, but the danger failed to result in a goal, as is often the case with him.

Palmeiras opened the scoring four minutes into the second half, thanks to neat control and a good finish from Dudu, their captain, after a long ball from Antonio Carlos. Flamengo went onto the attack, as expected. However, it wasn’t until the 80th minute when Marlos, a young Colombian forward on loan from Manchester City who had come onto the field in place of Vitinho, scored with a low drive from just inside the area. That was Marlos’ first goal in two years! The lad is only 22 years old, but he hasn’t scored for 77 games.

Good for him. Clearly buzzing after lifting that monkey off his back, just a few minutes later he set up the easiest of chances for Lucas Paqueta, which the Milan-bound midfielder blasted over the top, even though it looked easier to score. That really was a waste. Palmeiras, understandably, were tiring and will be glad that they managed to cling on for the draw. They maintain their four point advantage at the top of the league and the result also keeps Big Phil Scolari’s incredible unbeaten record in the Serie A since he took charge intact. His record: 12 wins; 4 draws; 0 losses. Impressive stuff.

Lets just hope for Palmeiras and Brazilian football fans, that Scolari can work his magic on Wednesday night and that Palmeiras can find a way to overturn a two goal deficit and beat Boca Juniors. The winner of this leg will play the winner of the other semi final between River Plate and Grêmio.

As for the Serie A, Palmeiras can increase their lead over Flamengo to seven points if they beat a resurgent Santos on Saturday evening. Flamengo, meanwhile, face São Paulo, who themselves have a slim chance of winning the title, away from home on Sunday.

For more on the Serie A including the latest results, fixtures and league standings check the updated and dedicated Serie A page of this site.

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