It was an outcome more than announced. Palmeiras went to Belo Horizonte tonight with the certainty that a draw in this last round would be enough to become champions of the Brazilian League for the second consecutive year, but knowing that a defeat would also be enough: it would have been necessary for one of their direct opponents not to only win to reach equality on points with Portuguese Abel Ferreira’s team, as if they triumphed by absolutely overwhelming numbers to overcome Palmeiras’ goal differential. But Atlético Mineiro and Flamengo were defeated in their respective clashes with Bahia (4-1) and São Paulo (1-0), while Palmeiras only conceded a draw with Cruzeiro (1-1).
Less expected was the path taken by Palmeiras to reach this title. Abel Ferreira’s team came to be 14 points off the lead but was the main beneficiary of Botafogo’s extraordinary collapse, which went from being an isolated leader and possible champion to falling disastrously to fifth place, seeing Luís Castro flee to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr when the club was still on the rise, losing Bruno Lage in three months and ending up under interim supervision and with the club’s owner, John Textor, claiming that the team was robbed by the referees and opponents to justify the results crisis.
It would have been difficult for Textor and the Cariocas to swallow, especially the 4-3 defeat against Palmeiras, precisely, but the dramatic turnaround of the scorer in that game had a name, the same one that starred in the final phase of Palmeiras’ season: Endrick, a 17-year-old diamond with a plane ticket already purchased to Madrid, where he will join Real in July. For now, he carries two records stolen from Neymar: he is the youngest Brazilian champion ever and the youngest to reach 10 goals in the top echelon of Brazilian football. Endrick scored Palmeiras’ goal this evening in Belo Horizonte.
There was more than Endrick, however, for Palmeiras to return to the title. There was Abel Ferreira and his usual recipe, reaffirmed in recent weeks: a solid defense and a tremendously effective attack given the opportunities offered. And there was luck for some and bad luck for others.
What will happen from now on is anyone’s guess. Abel Ferreira ends his third year in São Paulo as two-time champion and with nine titles won (one shy of Oswaldo Brandão’s record at the club), including two Libertadores. But the Portuguese has not hidden his tiredness and displeasure with various aspects of Brazilian football, openly criticizing the intense competitive calendar, the quality of refereeing and the aggressiveness of the press and commentators, whose attacks sometimes display a xenophobic content.
He has another year of his contract with Palmeiras ahead of him, but there will be another one waiting for him, worth multimillion-dollar sums, at Al-Sadd in Qatar. The exchange would be financially advantageous but sportingly dubious: the emirate’s club, despite being well on the domestic front, has just fallen into the qualifying rounds of the Asian Champions League. Without ever explicitly referring to this or any other hypothesis, Abel has fueled the suspense, which could dissipate in the coming days, once the championship is over.
Santos drops to series B, Atlético loses second place
In other accounts from the last round, Grémio Porto Alegrense managed to finish the Brasileirão in second place, defeating Fluminense, champion of the Libertadores, 3-2. Atlético, Flamengo and Botafogo (which lost 3-1 to Internacional in Porto Alegre) closed the championship with defeats and, in respective order, the top 5. Botafogo ends up without direct access to the Libertadores group stage.
In the championship of the afflicted, the historic Santos lost 2-1 to Fortaleza and was relegated to series B with Goiás, Coritiba and América. Vasco da Gama, who defeated Red Bull Bragantino 2-1 at home, and Bahia, who beat Atlético Mineiro by a resounding 4-1 in the biggest surprise of the final round, were saved.
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