3 May, 2018 |
The Workers’ Day holiday is synonymous with taking a break and slowing things down, as the country
takes a moment to celebrate all the workers who keep all sectors of industry functioning throughout the
year. For Project X, there was no respite as the touring side continued with preparation ahead of one of
their biggest fixtures since the program’s inception.
Three years of Project X were set on a collision course with 122 years of Rubro-Negro, when the visitors
took on the Scarlet & Black of CR Flamengo. In what was a complete contrast of styles, history and
ability compared to their first opponents, the PJX needed to have their wits about them when they took
on a side that is widely regarded as the most beloved in Brazil.
An additional feature of the preparation was the visit to Ninho do Urubu, the club’s training base.
Nestled deep within the leafy and mountainous neighbourhood of Vargem-Grande in Rio, the Rio giants
opened their doors and showed great hospitality in allowing the visitors to train at their base.
Flamengo started quickly out the box, dominating the possession with swift and purposeful passing
between the PJX lines. A physically imposing opponent, the Rubro-Negro pushed their way around their
home turf, with PJX trying desperately to keep shape and hold their lines. It wasn’t long before they
were breached when an error by Fezile Gcaba saw the Brazilians fire home past a helpless Kopano
Thuntsane in goal for 1-0.
PJX needed to respond and started to keep their foot on the ball, a more patient possession-based
approach, led by 16-year old Augustine Mahlonoko in midfield. A neat build-up saw Lepasa released
down the right and he headed ominously toward goal. The PJX man did well to fire a low cross to the far
post for Smiso Bophela to equalise from close range at the end of a deep run down the left. 1-1.
Spirits were certainly lifted by that equaliser and the visitors began to assert themselves on the game. It
was however undone when Samuel Nkomo committed a foul an uncharacteristic foul in the box,
lunging at his man from behind and leaving the referee with no choice but to point to the spot.
Thuntsane guessed correctly but could do nothing to stop the powerful spot kick that touched his right
palm on its way into the bottom corner. 2-1 going into half time.
The second half showed the hunger of PJX to get back into the game as they played with more intensity
and their own brand of physicality against a larger opponent. Mahlonoko, showing class and ability
beyond his years fired the PJX back into the game shortly after the hour mark, getting onto the end of a
Lepasa pass and tucking into the bottom corner. A well-deserved goal for a player who has been
amongst the standout performers on tour so far. Together with Thabiso “Pepe” Sesane, the two
youngsters have been the archetypal Davids, taking on a Brazilian Goliath.
Flamengo weren’t rattled by the equaliser and made PJX pay immediately. Winning a throw in the final
third, the Rio giants somehow managed to get through a 4v9 situation, exposing a gap in the PJX
defence to cut through the middle and fire past an exposed Thuntsane for 3-2.
As the game wore on, PJX continued to probe and they would reap the reward when Thuntsane spotted
a high line by the Flamengo defence and fired a long ball through the middle. Riyaaz Nell timed his run
to perfection, as he came around the defence to control the bouncing ball and bag the equaliser with
only minutes left to spare.
The game ended 3-3.
About the opponent
You cannot mention the world’s biggest football clubs without counting Flamengo amongst them.
Steeped in a deep and rich history, Flamengo also boasts arguably the largest football support in Brazil.
The support is born from the success of the club over the last century.
Established in 1895, Flamengo is one of the most successful clubs in Brazilian football. Their accolades
Campeonato Carioca: 34
Campeonato Brasileiro: 5
Copa do Brasil: 3
Copa Intercontinental: 1
Copa Libertadores: 1
Where to find us
Follow the tour on Twitter using @orlandopirates #ProjectXRio