By Louis Smith.
Fluminense (winner of the Taco Rio) took on Flamengo (Winner of the Taça Guanabara) for the second time in the space of four days, on this occasion in the first leg of the Campeonato Carioca final.
Fluminense’s penalty shootout victory over their bitter rivals in the Taça Rio last week ensured the Rio de Janeiro state championship would need a two-legged final in order to decide the winner.
Jorge Jesus made four changes to the Flamengo side that lost in midweek. Gerson, Everton Riberio, and Leo Pereira were all dropped to the bench, and star striker Bruno Henrique missed out completely through injury. Gustavo Henrique, Diego, Vitinho, and Pedro all came into the starting eleven.
On the Fluminense side, Odair Hellmann showed faith in the players who got the job done on Wednesday only making one enforced change at centre-back bringing in Digao for the injured Nino.
The Rubro-Negro started the game the better of the two sides but struggled to create any efforts to trouble Muriel Becker (the hero for Fluminense on Wednesday night).
Flamengo’s persistence eventually paid off midway into the second half when some lovely build-up play by last season’s champions saw Diego tee up Pedro who fired his shot past Muriel giving Flamengo the upper hand in the tie.
They continued to probe the Fluminense goal but couldn’t find a way through, rarely creating any worthy chances and the scoreline at the break was 1-0.
Whatever was said to the Fluminense players at half time worked wonders. They came out a completely different side attacking from the off and Flamengo couldn’t adjust. Luckily for Jesus’ side, Diego Alves was on form, making several key saves.
Their greatest chance came when chipped ball by Nene to Yago Felipe showed a lovely piece of skill to set up a volley which forced Alves into a great save. Almost immediately after, Fluminense eventually found a way through when a perfect cross from Egido found Evanilson, who fired home the equalizer.
However, Flu would not be level for long. In the hunt for a winning goal, they had several players forward leaving them frail at the back.
A long ball from Rafinha was chased down by Gabigol who showed explosive pace to run down the right flank to play a perfect ball to Michael who gave Flamengo a 2-1 lead — a ruthless counter-attack which was enough to give Flamengo victory on the night.
All was not perfect for Flamengo, though. In the final moments of the game, there was controversy when Gabigol was sent off for a second yellow card after walking off the pitch too slowly in the referee’s eyes when being substituted.
This sparked several complaints from the Flamengo bench and Jesus stormed onto the pitch at the full-time whistle to give his say.
“You can’t understand the expulsion of Gabigol, it’s a crazy thing,” the Flamengo manager told the club’s media channel.
The red card means that Flamengo will be without their star man for Wednesday evening’s clash.
Técnico do Fluminense Odair Hellmann bateu boca com o auxiliar do Flamengo João de Deus na confusão ao final do jogo. pic.twitter.com/Mtu7bOXTz6
— Márcia Magalhães (@marcimag_) July 12, 2020
After cooling down, Jesus spoke to the press focusing on his team’s performance,
“It is important to have won. In the dispute for a trophy in two games, coming out with the advantage is important,” he said.
“Today the Fluminense team wanted to play to win, it was like Flamengo. The game today was better played and more emotional. Flamengo during the game was always more of a team.”
Hellmann was also displeased with some of the referee’s decisions throughout the game and had to be pulled back by some of his players to stop him confronting the referee.
The second leg is due to be played on Wednesday evening, and the scenes at the end will add a little more spice towards the already intense rivalry.