Colombian / Brazilian manager Roberto Nascimento da Silva Lazaró, to give him his full Brazilian name, was settling nicely into life in Sao Paulo. Despite being a little concerned by Palmeiras’ defensive strengths, he had a superstar striker and lots of young talent to work with.
Having rejected Gremio before joining Palmeiras, that put pressure on as Gremio visited Allianz Parque to begin the second half of Série A. It wasn’t looking good as the visitors scored after 26 minutes and Palmeiras were playing awfully. But a mid-game switch to 4-2-4 and a triple sub swung the game on its head with goals from striker Brenner and Joao Neto. And Lazaró decided to go 4-2-4 going forwards.
It worked again as they came from behind to beat Atlético Mineiro 3-2 with that man Brenner bagging a brace. Then they welcomed leaders and rivals Corinthians – who had two Lazaró favourites in the legendary Batata and Alfredo Riascos – to town and Brenner nicked the lead from the penalty spot. Riascos scored a delicious curling effort to equalise only for their midfielder to get sent off. And Brenner yet again made them pay with a brilliant finish to seal a much-deserved 2-1 win!
The good form was put on the line with a trip to another rival Sao Paulo. Brenner was again on target to open the scoring but the hosts equalised within a minute and took control after the break to win 4-1. But they bounced back by beating Bahia 1-0 thanks to winger Ali Mehri’s injury-time winner.
Palmeiras’ form was a bit up and down but a high was beating Ceará 3-0 with Neto bagging a hat-trick. That included a penalty won by 15-year-old academy product Júlio David, who became the youngest player in Palmeiras history aged 15 years 325 days, which was 16 days short of Angelo’s all-time Serie A record. A week later, the squad was so tired that Lazaró threw in a fully rotated side to host Mirassol and Júlio David scored twice in a 3-1 win to become the youngest ever Série A and Palmeiras goalscorer aged 15 years 332 days.
A few days later they won a crazy, crazy game at Fluminense, who led 2-0 and looked to be strolling. But a triple substitution saw Brenner and sub Gabriel Menino level things up. Another sub, winger Denis looked to have nicked it only for Fluminense to score a delicious free-kick two minutes into injury-time. However, the third sub Veron was sent through after 96 minutes to score a late winner!
Goals, Goals, Goals!
Heading into the final eight games of the season, Palmeiras were in pole position in a Libertadores qualification battle with Vasco, Flamengo and Atlético Goianiense, sitting four points clear of that trio. But they were five points back from Corinthians and Sao Paulo and eight behind leaders Santos.
They took the Fluminense momentum into a 4-0 battering of Internacional, which prompted the media to acclaim the exciting start to his Palmeiras reign with the headline “Lazaró Means Goals.” Indeed, after the 0-0 on his debut, there had been 48 goals in the next 19 matches!
That trend continued with a 2-2 at Athletico Paranaens then a 3-2 win over struggling Cuiabá, in which Brenner scored an incredible 40th of the season and Veron scored in a fourth consecutive game. But they lost 3-1 at leaders Santos, who only killed the game off as Palmeiras pushed for an equaliser, without both first-choice central midfielders.
Palmeiras wrapped up the season with games against four of the bottom seven. Two late strikes from Brenner and midfielder Denilson Corozo’s first of the season stole a completely undeserved 3-2 win at Bragantino, on the day Veron marked 500 league games for the club.
They then had two 11am kick-offs, which is a bit weird. A Brenner brace and a sumptuous free-kick from left-back Beto earned a 3-1 win that relegated Cruzeiro and secured Copa Libertadores qualification before a Neto doubled inspired a 2-1 win at América Mineiro. And they finished the campaign at home with a dominant 3-0 win over to next-to-bottom Chapecoense led by another Brenner brace.
That strong end to the season saw Palmeiras leapfrog Sao Paulo into third on the final day. They finished with 74 points from 38 games, 10 back from winners Santos. The champions were the only team to score more than Palmeiras’ 81 goals and the weakness was clear to see as they conceded 58, which was more than relegated Chapecoense! However, Palmeiras won the league’s Fair Play Award for the first time as they amassed just 36 bookings and one red card.
Brenner was Série A top scorer with 26 goals in 35 games, which was two more than Goianiense’s Bessone, and earned him the Best Player award. While Corozo got the joint-most assists in the league with Vasco’s Kayky on 11. Elsewhere, former defender Batata won defender of the year and Brenner was second in striker of the year to Corinthians’ Kaio Jorge.
Palmeiras’ main man was Brenner, who bagged two new club records with an amazing 41 goals in 48 league games and 45 goals in 58 games in all competitions. Close behind him were Neto, who scored 21 and got 13 assists, and Denis, who scored and assisted 14. Bernardo scored 12 but struggled towards the end of the season, while Veron scored 11 and impressed towards the end of the season. Corozo led the way with 16 assists and his midfield partner Santiago Simón got 13.
Worryingly, Ángel González only kept 15 clean sheets and conceded 86 in 63 matches and second centre-back Osvaldir averaged 6.85. So it’s clear where Lazaró needs to strengthen if he has any money available in the off-season. That’s because the club’s finances are not pretty, with -£17 million in the bank balance despite several sales and the club is losing up to £1 million every month.
The lack of finances available means youth prospects could be crucial. Luckily, Lazaró’s first youth intake in Brazil produced four “elite talents” in the aforementioned Júlio David, who’s already in the first team at 15, and Gedeil and centre-backs Guilherme and Marcos Roberto. There was also a “top talent” in defender Jefferson.
Join us next time as Robinho Lazaró looks to rebuild his Palmeiras side to reduce the gap to dominant forces Santos and Corinthians!