There was a gripping relegation battle on the last day of the season.
Palmeiras may have wrapped up the title with a game to spare, but all eyes were on events at the bottom of the table on the last weekend of the season as six teams (Sport, América Mineiro, Fluminense, Vasco, Chapecoense and Ceará) battled to avoid the drop. Two of them would go down and four of the six teams played each other.
With no wins and no goals in their last seven league games going into the last day, Fluminense needed to avoid defeat against América Mineiro to ensure survival. With one eye on the Copa Sul-Americana, where they reached the semi final, their league situation got so bad that they eventually decided to fire Marcelo Oliveira on the last week of the season. 36 year old Fábio Moreno took charge for the crucial last game.
Given other results, a loss would have relegated Fluminense. They ultimately stayed up after beating América by a single goal, but it wasn’t without a scare. With the scores tied at 0-0 Luan had a penalty saved by Fluminense keeper Júlio César (not the ex-Seleção or ex-Corinthians Júlio César, another one). A few minutes later Luan missed another chance when clean through on goal: hit shot partially stopped by Júlio César, again, and then loose ball brilliantly hacked off the line by Gum.
Richard scored towards the end of the half to ease the nerves for Fluminense, but América continued to create and miss chances (in no small part thanks to the brilliance of the human brick wall Júlio César). They ultimately couldn’t find the equaliser that their approach play in this match deserved and will play the 2019 season in the Série B.
Chapecoense completed the great escape by beating São Paulo 1-0. The win mean that the club avoid relegation by the skin of their teeth, a great achievement given the turmoil that they have been through after the plane crash that killed their entire first team squad two years ago. (Admittedly, they avoided relegation more comfortably last year, but they are a small club without a lot of resources so this is still a success considering the circumstances.) There were emotional scenes and celebrations at the final whistle. One of the six survivors of that plane crash, Alan Ruschel, was an unused substitute for Chapecoense in the match against São Paulo.
That result, combined with Grêmio’s 1-0 win over Corinthians, meant that São Paulo finished fifth and miss out on an automatic Libertadores group stage spot. Very frustrating for them, given that they spent much time leading the championship. That also wraps up a miserable campaign for defending champions Corinthians, who finished 13th.
Ceará and Vasco played out an interesting 0-0 draw, which meant that both clubs stay up. It was a good achievement for Ceará, but bittersweet since a win would have seen them qualify for the 2019 Copa Sul-Americana. (Chapecoense, Fluminense and Corinthians took the final places.)
Sport had a chance of staying up on the last day but were relying on other results going their way, which they didn’t. They beat a young Santos team 2-1, but the victories for Chapecoense and Fluminense meant that they still went down.
Champions Palmeiras beat already-relegated Vitória 3 – 2 in an entertaining match in São Paulo. Atlético Mineiro guaranteed a spot in the Libertadores qualifying round thanks to a 1-0 win over Botafogo, who finished 9th and will play in the Sul-Americana next year.
With Flamengo having already wrapped up second place and Atlético Paranaense in 7th and already qualified for the Libertadores next year, neither side had much to play for in the match between these two teams in Rio de Janeiro. But with a packed Maracanã in full voice to say goodbye to Lucas Paquetá in his last game before he moved to AC Milan, and Atlético fielding a reserve side – since they were focusing on the Copa Sul-Americana final which they would play (and win) shortly after the last round of league matches – there only seemed likely to be one winner: Flamengo. What actually happened? Atlético won 2-1. (For more on the Sul-Americana see the Brazilfooty Sulamericana page.)
Bahia and Cruzeiro played out a boring 0-0 draw in Bahia. By winning the Brazilian Cup, Cruzeiro had already booked a spot in the Libertadores next season and field a reserve team in this game (and give a debut to 16-year-old prospect Alejandro). Bahia said goodbye to two of their best players – Zé Rafael, who will be heading to Palmeiras next season and Leo Pelé, who will move to São Paulo.
Finally, Paraná and Internacional played out a 1 – 1 draw. Internacional had already guaranteed third spot, while Paraná had already guaranteed last spot.
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