This final was the final that the Libertadores wasn’t.
Palmeiras beat Grêmio this evening to lift the Brazilian Cup for the fourth time in their history. Palmeiras’ youth team came to the fore with Wesley (21) and Gabriel Menino (20) scoring the goals in a 2-0 win, making it 3-0 on aggregate. The match was everything that the Libertadores final was not: fast, end-to-end, high intensity and high quality.
Palmeiras went into the game with a 1-0 lead after Gustavo Gómez gave them a win in Porto Alegre. That score undoubtedly helped the quality of this game, with Grêmio forced to attack from the outset, which is what they did. It also helped that this game was played on a fresh São Paulo evening, rather than a muggy Rio afternoon.
Both teams were at it from the word go. Grêmio looked good with Maicon and Matheus Henrique pulling the strings in midfield, although Palmeiras were a major threat on the counterattack with Rony and Wesley offering some big pace on the flanks.
The teams went into the break of this game with the score tied at 0-0. Grêmio had a chance to take the lead on the night and equal the tie early in the second half. But sure enough it was the Palmeiras counterattack that proved vital. Raphael Veiga, who really is maturing into a good player and was nominated player of the tournament, broke through midfield and fed Wesley on the left of the box. Instead of cutting inside on his right foot, Wesley shot early with his left foot and with power, which took the ball past the keeper, who could really have done better, although he may have been surprised that Wesley took it first time.
Palmeiras keeper Weverton made a couple of good saves as can be expected. Renato Gaúcho threw on Guilherme Azevedo and Ferreira for Alisson and Pepê on around 60 minutes, and the talented Jean Pyerre a few minutes later. Ferreira looked like he might make something happen, as he did in the first leg, and Jean Pyerre offered some extra quality. But Palmeiras had their own cards up their sleeve, including Patrick de Paula, who they brought on to shore things up.
Grêmio continued to press, but it was another Palmeiras counter attack, in a move which involved three more subs, that proved fatal. Mayke to Rony to Willian to Gabriel Menino. And goal. 84 minutes gone and that was game, set, match and trophy.
Palmeiras can reflect on an absolutely fantastic season and a treble of trophies: the Paulista state championship; the Copa Libertadores; and Brazilian Cup. The success was tempered slightly by not winning the league and their dissapointing showing at the World Club Cup, where they lost in the semi final against Tigres. But both of those things can be put down to the intense fixture list, excessive travelling and fatigue. Not too shabby considering all of the circumstances. Not too frikkin shabby at all.
Abel Ferreira deserves a special mention for the role he played. The Portuguese coach took over the team in the middle of the season with the squad in the middle of a Covid crisis and struggling for form. Add to that the complications of actually living under Covid restrictions, living in a new country, a new league, and managing a team in the middle of a severely congested calendar, the job that the coach did is truly impressive.
The Palmeiras academy deserves some major credit too. Both of the team’s scorers on the night come from the club’s youth system. Patrick de Paula (21) was on the pitch at the end, while Danilo (19), Gabriel Veron (18) and Renan (18) were on the bench.
As for Grêmio, it is a disappointing end to the season. They had a decent run in this competition, a 6th place finish in the league and another trip into the Libertadores knock out rounds, but ultimately they finish empty handed which they will be disappointed about.
Renato Gaúcho, who has signed another contract and will head into his sixth season in charge of the team next season (which has already started), will point to the difference in finances between his team and the likes of Palmeiras and Flamengo, and he has a point. They’ve lost some of their best players in recent seasons – Everton, Luan and Arthur spring to mind – and it would be nice to see some of those funds reinvested in the squad.
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