19 year-old forward Leandro grabbed a brace as Gremio sealed a double of their own on Wednesday night, seeing off Sport Recife to earn their second win on the bounce and climb up to fourth place in Brasileirão 2012.
The home side started well but failed to take their early chances, falling behind shortly before half-time when Felipe Azevedo headed Reinaldo's cross beyond Marcelo Grohe. 2012 has been a year of change in Porto Alegre, and at 1-0 down, it appeared the Tricolor looked very much a work in progress. New coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo, who labelled his squad “ugly” shortly after agreeing terms with the club, is joined by a host of new signings, including former Manchester City midfielder Elano, former Bayern playmaker Ze Roberto and ex-Wigan striker Marcelo Moreno. Defender Naldo has arrived from Cruzeiro, holding midfielder Souza on loan from FC Porto, and volatile forward Kleber from Palmeiras.
“We now have a lot of options,” said Luxemburgo this week when asked about Kleber’s recent injury problems. “The base is now in place to deal with an absence, we will not get stuck because of one player.”
“We have a good group now,” added Marcelo Moreno, who reacted well to poke in an equaliser on the hour mark.
But for all the club’s high-profile arrivals, it was one of the youngsters who stole the headlines on Wednesday night. “People need to understand that he's only 18 years-old [he’s actually 19] and sometimes it can be a mistake to charge a boy of that age with comparisons to Pelé, Cruyff, or Maradona,” said Luxa of his teenage sensation, Leandro.
The teenager put his side ahead with 15 minutes remaining, expertly volleying into the roof of the net from a tight angle after Kleber’s header was saved. His second arrived just six minutes later when he tapped home from close range to end a fine move that had began with Gilberto Silva in his own half.
Leandro burst onto the scene nearly two years ago, grabbing six goals in seven games as a 17 year-old in the state championships, but failed to continue that form through 2011 and made headlines for all the wrong reasons earlier this year when he was arrested for driving with a false license. He hadn’t scored in over 11 months before Wednesday’s brace.
A chat with previous coach Caio Junior, during which the youngster was told to utilise his pace, and a new training regime that saw him bulk up considerably, is said to have led to an improvement that has impressed Luxemburgo in recent weeks.
“I can only thank the coach,” said Leandro on Wednesday night. “Luxa gave me a chance. I took it in the best possible way. If the opportunities come, I will be available.”
In Wednesday night’s other match, Santos played out a goalless draw with Botafogo. Thursday saw Atletico Mineiro retain top spot and earn their fifth straight victory with an impressive 3-1 win over Internacional. Guilherme set the hosts on their way, curling his finish in off the far post to grab his second in two games since returning from injury; Leonardo Silva volleyed a fabulous second before substitute Damián Escudero grabbed a third to make sure Fred’s 65th minute header was merely a consolation.
Vasco climbed to second, just two points behind Ronaldinho and co. at the top, after Fagner’s strike proved enough to grab all three points at Sao Paulo. Corinthians made it back-to-back victories with a 3-0 hammering of Flamengo – Danilo adding to a Douglas brace. Cruzeiro got back to winning ways and moved up to sixth with 2-0 win away to Portuguesa whilst Náutico recovered from defeat at Corinthians last week with a 3-0 home win over Pone Preta.
Fluminense sit third and remain the last unbeaten team in the league after a comfortable 4-0 thrashing of lowly Bahia and Coritiba and Palmeiras drew 1-1 in a reply of the Copa do Brasil final. Finally, bottom-placed Atlético Goianiense picked up their first win of the season with a 3-2 victory over fellow strugglers Figueirense.
Gaff of the Week: Rodrigo Arroz (Guarani) – before deciding to grab the winner from the halfway line with just four minutes remaining, make sure you’re kicking in the right direction.
Goal of the Week: Leandro (Gremio) – teenager ends a fine move to grab his second of the night.
Results and Highlights