Honours even in disappointing clássico

Santos and Corinthians faced off in the Vila Belmiro last night, and as this blog erroneously predicted, we were anticipating a fantastic game. In truth, what we got was the absolute opposite. With both sides missing some of their top players, we had a match that was almost completely bereft of attacking quality.

The home side were without their eminent talents Ganso and Neymar, and Corinthians had to cope with the absences of Liédson and winger Jorge Henrique. Santos coach Muricy Ramalho set up his side in rather naïve fashion, believing that with Elano as the main playmaker and Diogo attempting to emulate Neymar’s second striker role, they could supply the same creativity and threat. Their opponents however, realised that they had a weakened squad, and consciously played a more contained, defensive match.

For the majority of the first half, the play was restricted to the midfield with both defences standing strong and not allowing any gaps to appear in their lines of four. Corinthians were the better side early on, but to award any positive adjectives to their performance would be openhanded. Corinthians’ saving grace was their useful link-up play between their forwards, it was not quite as dangerous as usual but it accounted for the bulk of the positive play in the first half.

Santos’ system was evidently dysfunctional, their shape was more or less cancelled out by their opponents, and new signing Ibson gave a particularly diffident display when he should have been assisting the hard-working Elano. O Peixe managed to improve slightly in the second half, with Elano drifting to the right wing and initiating some slick passing combinations.

The best chance of the match came midway through the second half, when a delightful lobbed pass from Elano provided striker Borges with an opening in the Corinthians penalty area. The first touch from Santos’ artilheiro was sloppy however, and he put his shot past the far post.

Muricy attempted to reinvigorate his team by bringing on new signing Alan Kardec to replace the painfully ineffectual Diogo up front. That change did seem to be an improvement, but after Elano left the field due to injury, all of Santos’ creative flair went off with him.

Corinthians seemed fairly contented with the 0x0 draw, from the start their tactics never seemed geared towards taking the game to Santos. Their defence played strong, and deep-lying midfielders Paulinho and Moradei did a good job in stifling what little creativity Santos’ midfield provided. One major blow for the Timão however, was the injury to left back Fábio Santos early in the first half. The 25 year old suffered a rather nasty shoulder injury after only ten minutes, and with first-choice right back Alessandro just returning from his own injury problems, this was certainly not welcome.

The final score was not particularly harmful for either side, the single point managed to nudge Corinthians back into 1st position ahead of Flamengo, and it brought Santos further up from the relegation zone and still with two games in hand. Santos’ main worry is what to do when they cannot count on the spectacular talents of Ganso and Neymar going forward. On Wednesday night, they looked painfully ordinary, and Muricy still has a lot of work to do.

Santos 0 x 0 Corinthians
10/08/2011 – Vila Belmiro – Santos (SP)

Santos: Rafael, Pará, Edu Dracena, Durval, Léo; Arouca, Henrique, Elano (Adriano 75′), Ibson; Diogo (Alan Kardec 79′), Borges. Coach: Muricy Ramalho
Corinthians: Danilo Fernandes, Alessandro, Chicão, Leandro Castán, Fábio Santos (Welder 13′); Moradei, Paulinho; Willian (Elias Oliveira 68′), Alex, Danilo; Emerson. Coach: Tite

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