Heading into this weekend’s latest edition of the Paulista Derby, one thing was clear: both Palmeiras and Corinthians desperately needed something positive. At the end of the match it was Palmeiras taking the 3 points with a 2-0 victory over their bitter rivals, leaving Corinthians looking nothing like the team that at points was favored not just to win the Paulistão, but even the Copa Libertadores.
Palmeiras’ 2-0 victory was a result Verdão desperately needed. Palmeiras had failed to score in 3 consecutive matches, a 0-0 draw with Brasileiro bottom feeders Joinville, a 1-0 loss to Goiás, and a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their round 3 Copa do Brasil match with ASA.
However, the Palmeiras squad on the pitch Sunday looked nothing like the team that failed to put the ball in the back of the net over the past 3 matches. The first goal was a beautiful team play, with the Chilean Jorge Valdivia holding possession before finding Kelvin, who is on loan from Portuguese power Porto, on the right flank.
Kelvin placed a beautiful cross into the box which was finished at the far post by Rafael Marques. Valdivia once again played a role in the second goal, which was scored just before halftime. The Chilean sent a low cross into the box from the right side which landed at the feet of Zé Roberto, who held possession and fired a low shot at Cássio, the Corinthians keeper.
Cássio did well to stop the initial attempt, but the rebound went high into the air, and Zé Roberto was in perfect position to head home the rebound for the second goal. Palmeiras continued to attack in the second half, and it was only thanks to a few excellent saves from Cássio that Palmeiras didn’t extend their lead.
The play Palmeiras showed Sunday is the type of play that they must continue to show if they are to be successful in the Brasileiro. Though it looks as though Valdivia will be moving on following the expiration of his contract in August, whoever his replacement is, most likely Cleiton Xavier, must continue to create goalscoring opportunities and hold possession if Verdão are to be successful. Other than Valdivia, the most impressive man on the pitch for Palmeiras Sunday was undoubtedly Kelvin.
The 21-year old Brazilian picked up an assist on the first goal, and had a chance in the opening minutes that he just sent over the bar. He’s a fantastic player and should play a large role in the fate of this season for Palmeiras
On the other end of the pitch, Corinthians looked a shell of the squad that at one point was expected to challenge for the Libertadores title. Gone is striker Paolo Guerrero, who will move on to Flamengo following the Copa America after Corinthians declined to give in to his wage demands. In his place Sunday was the Paraguayan Ángel Romero. Romero did nothing of consequence up top, failing at times to even hold possession.
Manager Tite brought on the Colombian Stiven Mendoza at halftime in an attempt to inject some speed into the lineup, but Mendoza struggled to keep the ball and constantly found his attacking pathway blocked off. At times in the second half, Corinthians simply looked out of ideas. There were hardly any moments that Palmeiras’ keeper Fernando Prass was troubled, as he made just a few simple saves on the afternoon. This was a match that was much closer to finishing 4-0 than it was to finishing 2-2.
So what now for Timão? They’ve lost their best goalscorer, and have looked lost without him. Corinthians must re-tool their attack, as there simply isn’t an out-and-out striker on their roster as it currently stands. Romero is clearly unable to perform at a top level, and nothing shown by Vágner Love this year suggests that he’ll be able to score goals against anyone other than the lowest teams in the Brasileiro.
It is not a stretch to say that, as this Corinthians side is currently composed, they will fail to finish any higher than mid-table in the Brasileiro. The way forward seems to be that Timão must find a goalscorer during this transfer window. Without one, their defense will constantly be pressured, and there is only so much that Cássio can do.
Palmeiras’ win over Corinthians was their first triumph over their rivals in their last 10 meetings, and seems to be an illustration of two teams heading in opposite directions. If Palmeiras can continue this momentum, they should be able to make an extended run in the Copa do Brasil, as well as challenge for a high finish in the Brasileiro.
If Corinthians continue to play like they did Sunday, they’ll struggle to replicate their successes of last season. It’s only match day 4 in the Brasileiro, but already the pressure is high on teams. 3 teams, Flamengo, Fluminense, and Grêmio, have already fired their managers, and there is no doubt that more changes are to come. Sunday’s match was a big result for Palmeiras, and a warning to Corinthians.