The midfielder headed the winner in the 88th minute to put Corinthians into the final four ahead of the visitors, following a tense match at the Pacaembu on Wednesday evening
Paulinho’s dramatic 88th minute header won the tie and put Corinthians into the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores at the expense of Brazilian rivals Vasco.
Tension was high throughout the match, but with just two minutes of time remaining, Paulinho climbed highest to grab a late winner.
In a tight and evenly balanced first half at the Pacaembu, neither side were able to manufacture clear openings to break the deadlock and put one huge leap towards the semi-finals.
Vasco da Gama started well and maintained possession in Corinthians’ half, with Romulo and Eder Luis seeing a lot of the ball down their right flank as they both put several crosses into the box. However, throughout the first forty-five minutes, Vasco only really threatened when trying to catch Corinthians on the break, but far too often the Rio sides’ attacks fell apart when advanced passes were intercepted just as a move began to develop.
As a back and forth first half drew to a close, Corinthians began to assert themselves. Vasco continually failed to properly clear their lines as the home side went close twice, first when Ralf headed over a corner and then when Emerson drew a good save from Fernando Prass in the Vasco goal.
Following the interval, the game continued at a similar drab pace, with several aimless and wayward long-balls being played up field from both sides. Neither side wanted to make a mistake that may cost the tie, creating a very tense affair.
However, with an hour played, the best chance of the match fell to Vasco. After closing down Chicao’s clearance, the ball rebounded in favour of Diego Souza, who had the whole field clear in front of him. From inside his own half, Souza ran clear. As the 26-year old forward reached the edge of the box, he looked to slot the ball under Cassio Ramos, however, the Corinthians goalkeeper closed the angle well and got down quickly to tip the Brazilian’s shot around the post.
Moments after Diego Souza should have taken the lead for Vasco da Gama, Emerson struck the post for Corinthians. As the ball was crossed into the box, Fagner and then Rodolfo failed to properly clear as the ball bobbled around the area before falling to Emerson on the left of the box, who struck a low shot to the near post, only to see Prass tip his effort onto the bottom of the woodwork and clear.
However, the drama was not over. With thoughts now wavering onto the imminent penalties, Paulinho scored to put the home side into the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores with just two minutes remaining. As a corner was swung into the box, Paulinho, completely unmarked, rose from the centre of the box, 8 yards out, to bullet a header low past Prass to send the Timao supporters into raptures.
Either side could have won the tie and Diego Souza may feel responsible for not putting Vasco da Gama ahead earlier in the match when he failed to score when put through one on one.
Corinthians will know their fate of whom they will play tomorrow evening as Santos and Velez Sarsfield face off in Sao Paulo. If the Peixe win the sides will contest an all-Brazilian semi; while a meeting with the winner of Universidad de Chile's clash with Libertad will be the Timao's fate if Velez go through.