The Brazilian icon was at his best as he netted a treble, and grabbed an assist, to push his side back into the top half of the table with a virtuoso display
Neymar was in sensational form as Santos brushed aside a lacklustre Cruzeiro outfit 4-0 at the Independencia.
Brasileiro: Round 34 Results
Brasileiro: Round 34 Results
|Cruzeiro 0-4 Santos
With both teams consigned to mid-table mediocrity this season, you could be forgiven for expecting a lack of commitment going into this match. Yet with only 13 league appearances under his belt so far this season, Neymar was clearly not ready to ease off as he put the visitors ahead with just 12 minutes on the clock. Arouca's cutback from wide on the right was angled past Fabio with a well-controlled first-time finish. The 20-year-old was irrepressible and he doubled his tally for the night nine minutes before the break. A lapse of concentration from Mateus handed Andre possession inside the area and he immediately squared to Neymar. After killing the ball with one touch he shifted it onto his right and slid a low effort into the bottom corner.
Cruzeiro continued to lack any cohesion in possession and in the 53rd minute, the game was practically put beyond doubt. This time, Neymar turned provider as he surged away from Mateus down the left before putting the ball on a plate for Felipe Anderson to tap in. Anselmo Ramon did his best to try and bring the Raposa back into the game but Neymar ended all hope for the hosts seven minutes from time. Some fantastic work down the right from Ezequiel Miralles, which included lifting the ball over William Magrao, ended with a square pass to the Santos icon who swept in for his hat-trick.
The win sees the Peixe rise up to ninth position, but qualification for next season's Copa Libertadores is impossible. Cruzeiro, meanwhile, fall to a lowly 13th.
|Sao Paulo 1-1 Fluminense
Fluminense came from behind to rescue a point against Sao Paulo in a relatively stale affair at the Morumbi.
With both sides sitting comfortably within their aims for this season, there was very little motivation for either team to go out and chase the match. A slow start to the game saw Fluminense enjoy the majority of possession but with the Tricolor Paulista seemingly the more dangerous in front of goal. Ney Franco's men wasted too many chances to test Diego Cavalieri from set pieces: Denilson and Rafael Toloi the main culprits.
Luis Fabiano had looked lively throughout the first 45 minutes but chances for the striker to find the net had been limited. But just five minutes after the restart, Gum offered the former Sevilla man a golden chance to beat Cavalieri with a desperately short back pass. Fabiano pounced and rounded the keeper before firing into an empty net. The game remained relatively even until another defensive error, this time from the hosts, saw parity restored. Toloi was caught on the ball wide of his own area by Samuel and the youngster set up Fred who punched in his 17th strike of the season.
Abel Braga then sought to consolidate the point which ensured Fluminense retained a healthy advantage at the top, though the quantity of which would only be determined by Atletico Mineiro's result. Sao Paulo are almost certain for a return to Libertadores football next season with an eight-point advantage over fifth-placed Botafogo.
|Coritiba 1-0 Atletico Mineiro
Atletico Mineiro's title challenge looks all but extinguished after they fell to a 1-0 defeat to Coritiba at the Couto Pereira.
Coxa started the game positively and their impressive play was rewarded after just 10 minutes. Everton Ribeiro, dribbling in from the left, skipped past Rever before being brought down in the area by Fillipe Souto. Former Fenerbahce and Flamengo striker Deivid stepped up to take the penalty and showed immense composure as he sent Victor the wrong way to give the hosts an early lead. With Galo desperate for an equaliser but lacking a final touch, they almost fell two behind but were rescued by the post as it kept out Lincoln's effort.
The second half brought no more luck for Cuca's men as they were pinned back by Coritiba for much of the half. However, some appalling finishing from the hosts kept the gap between the two sides at just one goal. Ten minutes from time, the Alvinegro were left with their heads in their hands as Leonardo headed over from inside the six-yard box - after Bernard had done brilliantly to find space on the left and stand the ball up at the back post. Vanderlei made another top-drawer save from Guilherme in the closing stages to ensure that Coxa took all the points.
Dreams of their first Brasileirao in over 40 years are all but gone for Galo as they sit eight points off the summit with just four games remaining. Coritiba's late-season form has seen them move from potential relegation candidates up to 10th position.
|Palmeiras 2-2 Botafogo
Hernan Barcos salvaged a point for Palmeiras as they drew 2-2 with Botafogo, but results elsewhere meant it was still not good enough.
Following the controversy of last weekend's defeat to Internacional, the Verdao could not have started any worse for the visit of the Rio de Janeiro side. A lazy pass from Mauricio Ramos was seized upon by Andrezinho and a quick exchange of passes freed Nicolas Lodeiro down the left. The Uruguayan carried the ball into the area and, after seeing his initial header come back off the post, followed up to head in the opening goal. Palmeiras responded well and equalised before the half-hour mark. Marcos Assuncao's corner was met by Patrick Vieira and Barcos was on hand to make sure with a simple finish at the back post.
Once again the desire of the Alviverde, who needed maximum points to aid their survival hunt, seemed to melt away and Botafogo once more punished them. Mauricio Ramos was once again at fault, beaten all too easily by Lodeiro on the left who then centred for Elkeson to head in Fogao's second. Defeat looked certain but the imposing Barcos, commonly referred to as 'The Pirate', won a much-treasured point with a thunderous volley from the top of the box following some exquisite chest control.
While the Palmeiras faithful would have been happy with the late equaliser, wins for Bahia and Sport Recife mean they now sit seven points from safety. Botafogo, meanwhile, lost out on a great result to launch a last minute Libertadores charge from fifth position.
|Best of the Rest
Gremio ensured their place in next year's Libertadores with a 1-0 win over Ponte Preta while Flamengo moved away from the drop zone by defeating Figueirense by the same score. Vasco da Gama fell to their sixth successive defeat as they took a 3-0 thumping from Sport Recife in Rio, but Bahia's 1-0 win at Portuguesa means the Pernambuco side remain four points from safety. Atletico Goianiense's drop down to Serie B was confirmed as they lost 2-0 at home to Corinthians but Nautico look set to remain in the top flight for another year following their 3-0 triumph at home to Internacional.
|Player of the Round
There can be no doubting the immense talent possessed by Neymar, and the 20-year-old once again displayed why he has been nominated as a candidate for the coveted Ballon d'Or with a magnificent performance against Cruzeiro. Three goals and an assist mean the forward has now scored 12 goals in just 14 league appearances. But with Libertadores football out of the question for next season, the question must be asked as to what he has to gain from staying in Brazil? One thing that is certain, though, is that when he does depart, the Brasileiro will be a poorer place for it.