League leaders Internacional and Flamengo went for it in Porto Alegre this evening.
The much-anticipated clash between league leaders Internacional and last year’s champions Flamengo did not disappoint; both teams played some excellent football in a brilliant, high intensity and action packed 2-2 draw at the Beira-Rio stadium this evening.
Internacional were on course for the win that would have extended their lead at the top of the table, but Flamengo took a share of the spoils as Everton Ribeiro, one of the shortest men on the pitch, scored a headed equaliser in the 6th minute of extra time.
The equaliser was deserved, perhaps, given the amount of chances they created in the second half – in no small part due to striker Pedro, who was excellent. It was hard on Internacional, though, who had worked tirelessly to keep Flamengo at bay.
The consolation for Internacional is that the draw keeps the them ahead of last year’s champions on goal difference at the top of the table after Atletico Mineiro, who are third, also dropped points against Sport on Saturday.
Internacional came flying out of the blocs in this match though and Flamengo didn’t know what had hit them. Abel Hernández could, and should, have scored with a free header in the first minute. Right back Heitor was released in the box a minute later and his low shot was saved by Hugo Souza (who, by the way, looks like a real prospect).
And a a third chance came Internacional’s way in the fifth minute, which they wouldn’t miss. Abel Hernández made up for his earlier miss by tapping in Patrick’s low cross after Internacional’s midfielder, who was excellent apart from missing a chance in the second half that would have put them 3-1 up, had hassled Isla into a mistake.
Internacional’s high press was causing the Flamengo players all kinds of problems and their second goal was also the result of pressuring Flamengo’s defenders into mistakes; a series of failed attempts to get through the Internacional’s line culminated in Gustavo Henrique losing the ball and allowed Thiago Galhardo to score his 15th goal of the season by placing a cool finish beyond Hugo Souza.
The high press tactic can be a risky one though and in between their two goals, Flamengo scored a goal of their own as they managed to break through Inter’s lines, which allowed Pedro to run into space and drive the ball beyond Marcelo Lomba from the edge of the box.
Flamengo were better in the second half and created a series of half chances after the restart, with Pedro involved in everything good that Flamengo were doing. In the 13th minute of the second period he forced Marcelo Lomba into a great save, which broke to Felipe Luis, who smashed the ball against the bar.
In the 21st minute another move involving Pedro ended up with two shots being cleared off the line. Pedro’s ball send Vitinho through, whose tame shot was cleared into the path of Pedro, who could then only blast the follow up into a defender.
Internacional were still causing problems to Flamengo themselves though and the quality of the game was excellent, although a series of fouls and fisticuffs disrupted the flow. That suited Internacional, although they lost their talisman Thiago Galhardo to an injury (which didn’t look too serious because he was able to remonstrate at the end of the match). A series of Internacional substitutions also disrupted the flow.
This pattern was interrupted every now and then by a moment of Pedro skill, but as the minutes ticked and another chance, this time for Gerson, came and went it looked like Internacional would take the spoils. Things were getting heated on the sidelines and the two coaches clashed and argued, only for it to end with an apology from Coudent and a handshake between the two men. Nice to see.
The arguments continued between the coaches as the match went on, and Coudet went ballistic with the ref when a thrown in was given to Flamengo, deep in their half, in the 5th minute of stoppage time – not long after that debatable concession of the ball Flamengo equalised. Gerson had a better second half and it was his cross that went to Everton Ribeiro, who planted a header past Marcelo Lomba to equalised the game.
Flamengo unsurprisingly went nuts with their celebration. But shortly after that mayhem Domenec took off Pedro, who was furious (and rightly so in my opinion – Flamengo should have gone for the winner). The reserves of the two teams were exchanging unpleasantries and things looked like they could kick off. Coudet must have been fuming, but his warm embrace with Domenec at full time was the sign of a true sport and gent. Well played.
In the end we saw that Flamengo have the quality and the strength in depth. I think Domí¨nec was a little bit late with his substitutions – the introduction of Michael and Lincoln made a difference and could have been done earlier.
Internacional, meanwhile, might lack the quality in depth that Flamengo have but they make up for that with a good attitude, bravery and strength. They just lacked the stamina to see it through this evening.
Whatever you make of the relative merits of the two teams, it promises to be a very interesting title race with these two teams and Atletico Mineiro likely to be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
Internacional: Marcelo Lomba, Heitor, Zé Gabriel, Rodrigo Moledo, Uendel (Moisés), Rodrigo Lindoso (Musto), Marcos Guilherme (Rodrigo Dourado), Edenílson, Patrick, Thiago Galhardo (William Pottker), Abel Hernández (D’Alessandro)
Flamengo: Hugo Souza, Isla, Gustavo Henrique, Nathan, Filipe Luís, Thiago Maia, Willian Arão (Lincoln), Gerson, Everton Ribeiro, Vitinho (Michael), Pedro (Léo Pereira)
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