The 20-year-old completed his second century of appearances for the Peixe and rose to the occasion as he netted a majestic strike, though his team could only muster a draw..
Despite having featured for Brazil in Poland on Tuesday, Neymar started for Santos the following evening and announced his return with a wonderful goal in a 2-2 draw with Atletico Mineiro at the Vila Belmiro.
Brasileiro: Round 31 Results
Brasileiro: Round 31 Results
|Santos 2-2 Atletico Mineiro
The mercurial 20-year-old had only participated in 10 league games for the Peixe prior to the visit of Galo, but during his most recent absence one player has done his best to fill the void. Ezequiel Miralles had netted in both his previous two appearances and it took him just 18 seconds to find the net against the Alvinegro. At the end of their first attack, Felipe Anderson squared the ball to the Argentine inside the area and from there he steered the ball past Victor. Ten minutes later Neymar made it two. After flicking the ball between the legs of Rafael Marques he then skipped away from Leonardo Silva. Junior Cesar came across to cover but he could not stop the Santos icon as he cut inside and placed a cool shot into the corner.
However, their electrifying start came to a sudden halt just eight minutes later. Following a swift break, Serginho Mineiro centred the ball from wide on the right and picked out Bernard who nodded home. Shortly before the half-hour mark parity was restored. A coming together between Bernard and Rafael set a loose ball free in the area which former Manchester City striker Jo was on hand to slot in. From then on the game was a far less frantic affair. Both sides had chances to steal the win after the break but neither keeper was beaten again and the spoils were shared.
Santos now occupy 10th position in the table, some distance from the Copa Libertadores spots, while Atletico Mineiro remain second.
|Fluminense 2-2 Gremio
Fluminense missed the chance to enhance their lead at the Brasileiro summit as they played out a 2-2 tie with Gremio at the Engenhao.
This fixture last season proved to be one of the matches of the campaign, with Fred scoring four, bringing Fluzao from behind in the race for the title. This time around, both sides were among the favourites to win the Brasileiro and it looked like a similarly thrilling game could be on the cards as Anderson Pico's cross was turned onto the bar by Diego Cavalieri. Either side could have taken the lead, but it was not until the 55th minute that the deadlock was broken. Ze Roberto was brought down 20 yards from goal and the visitors were awarded a free kick. Elano stepped up and ingeniously rolled an effort underneath the wall and into the corner away from Cavalieri.
However, a mad six minutes for the Imortal Tricolor saw the game turn on its head. Digao netted from Thiago Neves' flick on in the 59th minute and the Brazil international provided the assist for the second goal. He picked out Rafael Sobis in space 35 yards from goal and the former Betis man turned before unleashing a rocket that flew past Marcelo Grohe. With 65 minutes played, and having been on the pitch for a meagre two minutes, Marcelo Moreno was dismissed for an elbow on the goalscorer. Nevertheless, Gremio rallied and, with a little bit of fortune, they got their reward four minutes from time as Ze Roberto swept home following a free kick.
Abel Braga's men therefore missed the chance to extend their lead at the top but remain nine points clear of their closest rivals. Gremio now sit 11 points adrift, and the title may well be beyond them.
|Botafogo 3-2 Vasco da Gama
Botafogo kept their faint Libertadores hopes alive as they came from behind twice to defeat Vasco da Gama 3-2 at the Engenhao.
The Gigante de Colina have seen their form slump in recent weeks and have subsequently been displaced from fourth position by Sao Paulo. Yet following two consecutive defeats they appeared ready to turn things around when Champions League-winner Carlos Alberto put the visitors ahead after 24 minutes, with an improvised flick from Eder Luis' cross. Fogao pulled level on the half-hour mark though as Bruno Mendes showed great strength to hold off Dede and cut the ball back for Elkeson to provide the simplest of finishes.
Carlos Alberto regained the visitors' advantage eight minutes later when Felipe pounced on a loose ball, before squaring to the former Porto man who fired in from close-range.
Botafogo struggled for inspiration after going behind, but the impressive Bruno Mendes still had a pivotal part to play. With 15 minutes left on the clock his darting near-post run was spotted by Gabriel and the striker managed to divert the ball into the back of the net. Then, in the third minute of stoppage time, Bruno Mendes popped up oncemore to rifle home from 25 yards, snatching the win at the death.
Botafogo occupy seventh position in the table but close the gap on fifth-placed Vasco to just six points.
|Internacional 2-3 Figueirense
Internacional's Libertadores aim took a huge blow as they were defeated 3-2 at the Beira-Rio by relegation candidates Figueirense.
The game started well enough for the hosts, who enjoyed the lion's share of position during the opening exchanges. For all their domination, though, chances were limited, but in the 39th minute they finally got the breakthrough they had been looking for. High pressing from Dagoberto rushed Elsinho and after winning the ball he charged into the area and lifted a smart finish over the onrushing Wilson. Aloisio saw that they would not take that advantage into half time though as he sprung the offside trap and dinked a shot over Muriel in first-half stoppage time.
It was not until the 70th minute that Fernandao's men regained the lead. A cross from the left was sent back across goal from the back post by Dagoberto where Rafael 'He-Man' Moura charged in to nod home his team's second of the night. Once more though, the Colorado threw it away as two strikes in the closing stages earned Figueira a massive win. Roni grabbed the first with a back-post tap in before Aloisio headed in his 12th strike of the season to ensure that Marcio Goiano's men left Porto Alegre with all three points.
Figueirense remain in the relegation zone, but are now seven points adrift of safety. Two defeats in a row to side's who could be playing in Serie B next season has seen Inter drop to sixth position and 10 points adrift of Libertadores qualification.
|Best of the Rest
Cruzeiro earned a fantastic result as they defeated reigning champions Corinthians 2-0, but a win for Sao Paulo against Atletico Goianiense - by the same scoreline - practically eliminates their chances of playing in South America's premier club competition next year. Coritiba took another huge step towards safety as they beat Nautico 2-1, while Palmeiras' 1-0 triumph over Bahia keeps their hopes of remaining in the top flight alive. Flamengo were dragged closer to the drop zone as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Portuguesa, while Sport Recife's 3-1 victory over Ponte Preta only served to make matters worse for the Rubro-Negro.
|Player of the Round
Though he may not yet be a household name, 18-year-old Bruno Mendes proved that suggestions of a bright future for him may well be justified, as he played an integral role in Botafogo's triumph over Vasco. He showed immense desire and determination to hold off the imposing Dede to set up his side's first goal, but it was after the break that he truly showed his prowess in the final third. Some superb movement saw him find the space to tuck home a 75th-minute equaliser before a brilliant effort from distance secured the win and capped a magnificent performance in the process.