After a gruelling three months of state championship football of a questionable standard, it was all eyes on Morumbi at 4pm on Saturday for the season-opener between São Paulo and Rio’s Botafogo. At least that should have been the case, were it not for the suits’ decision to air this game on pay-per-view. Given that five of the home team’s last six games in their stadium had ended goalless draws, we can’t imagine there were too many neutrals tuning in. Those that did however, would have been relieved to see the net bulge more than once. While it was Pato’s return to Brazil that hogged all the pre-match headlines, it was goals from Everton at the end of the first half and Hudson in the 83rd minute that saw the Paulista runners up start the league with three points.
Internacional, who have been riding high in the Libertadores, were given a reality check with a 2x0 defeat at last season’s strugglers Chapecoense. They will have to replicate their continental form quickly if they with to be in with a shout of repeating last year’s third place finish. The home team meanwhile, having adeptly avoided the drop since the tragedy of 2016, were tipped by many to go down this season, and new boss Ney Franco will be hoping this isn’t simply a case of new-manager syndrome.
Newcomers Avai put up a good fight away to Atletico Mineiro MG before losing out 2x1. They cancelled out Fabio Santos’ 45th minute goal immediately after the break through Brizuela but their parity only lasted 8 minute before going down to a 53rd minute goal from Oliveira; they will now be aware of what lies ahead in their fight to stay up this season.
The day’s standout fixture between Flamengo and Cruzeiro at the Maracana didn’t disappoint. Among 10 yellow cards and one red there were four goals. Cruzeiro took the lead a few minutes before half-time, Pedro Rocha providing the finish after some good work from the evergreen Fred. A matter of seconds later Flamengo were level, Fabio coming off his line but failing to deal with the cross as Bruno Henrique got their first, thereafter ensued an almost-comical race to grab the finishing touch as the ball drifted slowly towards the goal line; Bruno Henrique himself got his foot to the ball just before Gabigol could nod it home. Halfway through the first half Flamengo took the lead and again it was Bruno Henrique who finished the move after Gabigol and Aaron linked up nicely in the right-hand side of the penalty area, though Cruzeiro could count themselves somewhat unlucky given the wicked deflection. Bruno Henrique continued a dominant individual performance by drawing a second yellow from Murilo Cerqueira, before stretching the defence one more time, his shot forcing Fabio to parry straight into the path of Gabigol to put the icing on the cake in this early-season battle between potential title contenders.
The day began with an impressive away win for Santos at Gremio. The Peixe took a 2x0 lead by the 35th minute through goals from Sasha, with a lovely dink over the keeper and Jonatan after Gremio failed to properly clear a corner. The hosts were unsurprisingly upset when they had a goal disallowed by VAR via an extremely marginal offside decision. They were however able to claim a late and rather thrilling consolation goal; Manchester City target Everton Soares demonstrating a frightening turn of pace and electric finish from a tight angle. That was in stoppage-time and there was still late drama to come, though sadly not of the fotballing variety; the game ending in the all-too-familiar sight of a crowd of players arguing with the officials before Derlis Gonzalez managed to get himself sent off after the final whistle had gone - perhaps not his greatest achievement.
Atletico Paranaense will find themselves amongst the teams at the top after the first weekend. Having smashed 2 past Vasco in each half; only a 90th minute effort from the Rio team stopped Atletico being goal-difference leaders at the end of the weekend. One of the teams keeping them off first place are Ceara. They ran out 4x0 victors against CSA. It looks like it will be a long season for the newly-promoted team from Alagoas.
EC Bahia laid down their intentions by beating Corinthians by the odd goal in 5 in Salvador. WIth scores tied a 1x1 at half time, Bahia rushed to a 3x1 second half lead before Clayson’s 90th minute goal made for a nervous finale.
The day’s late games saw mixed fortunes for the last two promoted sides to play this weekend. Goias shocked Fluminense at the Maracana with Rafael Vaz netting a last minute winner for the away side. In São Paulo Palmeiras steamrolled Rogerio Ceni’s Fortaleza in his first managerial return to the city in which he made his legend as a player but left ignominiously when sacked from his beloved São Paulo FC in 2017.