Brazil race starts with reserve teams, low attendances

Brazil race starts with reserve teams, low attendances
By Reuters

21/05/2012 at 09:31Updated 21/05/2012 at 10:34

The Brazilian championship's opening round of matches turned into a damp squib with several teams fielding reserve line-ups and the public staying away.

Defending champions Corinthians and Fluminense both fielded reserve teams as they clashed in front of a modest 15,000 crowd at the Pacaembu in Sao Paulo, with Leandro Eusebio giving "Flu" a 1-0 win.

South American champions Santos also sent a reserve side to Bahia, drawing 0-0, while Vasco da Gama hosted Gremio with a "mixed" team of regulars and reserves but still managed a 2-1 win.

Corinthians, Fluminense, Santos and Vasco have all reached the quarter-finals of the South American Libertadores Cup and face second leg ties this week.

Corinthians and Vasco meet each other, while Fluminense and Santos host Argentine pair Boca Juniors and Velez Sarsfield respectively, both facing 1-0 deficits from the first leg.

A further problem was that the championship kicked off only one week after the end of the country's various season-opening state championships, meaning that the teams and supporters barely had time for a breather.

Only around 8,000 fans saw Botafogo beat Sao Paulo 4-2 in Rio de Janeiro with all the goals coming in the second half including a hat-trick by Botafogo substitute German Herrera.

The game turned on an astonishing save by Botafogo goalkeeper Jefferson from Luis Fabiano when Sao Paulo were 2-1 ahead.

There were even smaller crowds at Ponte Preta, where Atletico Mineiro made off with a 1-0 win, and Figueirense, who warmed up for the championship by sacking coach Branco last Monday, kicked off with a 2-1 win over promoted Nautico.

Flamengo forward Ronaldinho publicly criticised his coach Joel Santana's tactics as being too defensive after they drew 1-1 at Sport Recife on Saturday.

Former South Africa coach Santana retorted: "You all saw what happened. I'm not going to say anything except that sentiment and commitment were lacking."

Palmeiras, led by former Portugal and Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, also drew 1-1, at home to Portuguesa.