Brazilians love a good nickname. Some are better, and more inventive, than others, but they all make for great fun. Christening youngsters in the diminutive of whichever current star to whom they bear the slightest of resemblance is commonplace.
However, Palmeiras midfielder Patrick Vieira didn’t earn his name by dominating midfields and picking fights in the tunnel a la his French namesake, he was simply born with it.
The 21 year-old has shown some promise in his young career played out amidst the mayhem that was Palmeiras last season. 2012 Copa do Brasil winners under Big Phil Scolari, which confirmed their Libertadores place, the Verdao took their foot of the gas in last season’s Brasileirao. By the time they reapplied the pressure, it was too late and they were relegated for the second time in 10 years.
To make matters worse, this past week saw them lose last season’s star player Hernan Barcos to Libertadores rivals Gremio. The fans haven’t had much to shout about in recent months, and their misery looked as if it were to continue when Carlos Lobaton converted a penalty five minutes after the break that gave Sporting Cristal an equaliser in their Libertadores opener at the Pacaembu last night.
But cometh the hour, cometh the man. Patrick Vieira had spoken at length to the Brazilian media about the necessity for himself and other youngsters in the squad to step up to the challenge of the South America’s premier club competition.
“Thank God I had the opportunity to score, but I'm happier that we got the victory,” he said last night after slamming home a 68th minute winner from close range. “It was the biggest game of my life and the most important goal too, no doubt.”
“Patrick [Vieira] is still a young player,” said coach Gilson Kleina. “But nevertheless, he has been through many situations and we consider him experienced. He proved that… and that he can play at the high level of the Libertadores.”
The aforementioned Gremio got their campaign underway last night, too, as Chilean club Huachipato claimed a famous victory in Porto Alegre, running out 2-1 winners.
“We are so proud,” said Huachipato coach Jorge Pellicer “That is why Huachipato were league champions.”
In La Paz, Arsenal braved the altitude to face Bolivia’s The Strongest. Dario Benedetto’s excellent free kick equalised Alejandro Chumacero’s long range opener before the visitors imploded.
Damian Perez made it an uphill struggle for his side by receiving his marching orders ten minute in to the second half, and the game was up when a moment of madness saw Emilio Zelaya receive a straight red card for an inexplicable punch aimed in the face of Luis Melgar.
Melgar would have the last laugh, though, as he converted Pablo Esobar’s 83rd minute corner to give the Bolivians the win.
Elsewhere, Newell’s Old Boys saw off Olimpia 3-1 in Rosario thanks to goals from Horacio Orzan, former Liverpool man Maxi Rodriguez and the in-form Igancio Scocco, and David Macalister Silva hit the winner as Deportes Tolima beat Cerro Porteno 2-1.
Results and Highlights