A little over a month ago Santos’ reserves went to Mogi Mirim’s Estádio Romildo to face the home side in the league portion of the Paulistão. Santos B came home with their tails firmly between their legs after a crushing 3x1 defeat. Today, the tables were turned. It was Mogi Mirim who made the trip to the Vila, and they were made to hang on for dear life as the first team utterly dominated the game. The final score was 2x0, but it could have easily been much more. The win sets up a semifinal meeting with São Paulo on the weekend.
The biggest pre-game talking points were changes. Alan Kardec got a surprise start over Borges, and, due to injuries to Henrique and Fucile, Maranhão was drafted into the side to play at rightback. Even the return of Ibson and his mobility wouldn’t be fully able to cover for Maranhão’s weakness. At least that’s what I thought. It turned out to not be much of an issue.
One of the best things about this new possession-based and high pressing style is its usefulness in defending. Mogi Mirim couldn’t breathe once the whistle blew. They often only had the ball for mere seconds before Santos’s hounds regained possession. All they could do after that was man the ramparts as Santos prepared attack after attack.
It came as no surprise when the black and white waves finally broke through Mogi’s levy. Neymar’s beautiful ball was headed home by Maranhão of all people to open the scoring. It was a measure of how comfortable the game was that the on-ptich atmosphere was fairly peaceful after that - a minor altercation between Neymar, Ganso, and a few Mogi Mirim players notwithstanding. In fact, the few times that Santos was troubled, it was because Maranhão had ambled up the pitch and either lost the ball, or failed to get back in time.
It was clear that Muricy’s men were trying to limit their energy expenditure in this game, and I could understand why. Still, it was a dangerous tactic with a slim one goal lead. Luckily, a wave of Neymar’s wand midweek the second half gave Santos a two goal cushion, and the team saw the game out easily from then on. Neymar should have scored his one hundredth goal for the club against the team that he scored his first ever goal against, but it was not to be.
Here are the highlights:
Overall, it was a extremely professional performance from the players (even Maranhão). Neymar, Ganso, Arouca, and Edu Dracena once again stood out at the four best players on the team.
Now it’s time to beginning planning how to deal with São Paulo next Sunday at the Morumbi. Unlike Mogi Mirim, the victtory of O Tricolor came against Santos’ first team. They were helped by the fact that Santos were quite sluggish after a midweek to Rio Grande do Sul for a Libertadores game. In that case, bad omens abound as a trip to Bolivia is coming up on Wednesday. Hopefully Santos can prevent an occurrence of déja vu.
The first leg of the Copa Libertadores last sixteen matchup against Bolivar is in La Paz on Wednesday. It should be quite exciting since both team will look to attack. On the other hand, I hope it isn’t. That’s right. I want Muricy to abandon the new style for this game, and go there to park the bus and hit on the counter. “Why?!” I hear you ask. Two words. The Strongest.
Although the first Bolivian excursion turned out to be a failure only because of extreme profligacy, the tiredness pressing at altitude brings on the players is an issue that must be avoided at all costs. The best tactic in my opinion is go there with a view to keeping it tight and grabbing a goal. My view on this matter is only colored minutely by the Paulista semifinal - the Libertadores is obviously much more important.
Juan won’t be able to play on the weekend against São Paulo since he’s on loan from the club. I believe there’s an option for Santos to pay money to allow him to play, but it probably won’t be exercised.
After the Mogi Mirim game, Ganso received a plaque to commemorate his wonderful goal against Catavanduvense last week.
[Photo Credit: santos.com.br]