Vasco da Gama are known as O Time da Virada (The Comeback Team). On Wednesday night they vindicated that moniker to dramatic effect in their Sao Januario home.
Having lost 2-0 at Universitario in the first leg of their Copa Sudamericana quarter-final, Vasco found themselves 2-1 down on the evening and 4-1 on aggregate 47 minutes into the return meeting. With the away goals rule in effect, the Rio de Janeiro giants needed to score four times without reply to snatch a place in the last four and maintain their dream of a magnificent treble (Vasco ended an eight-year wait for a major title by winning the Copa do Brasil in June, and they are currently level on points with Brasileirao leaders Corinthians with five rounds remaining).
Implausibly, that is what the men in the black shirts with a white sash accomplished. Vasco’s hero - surprisingly given the circumstances - was not one of their attacking players, but centre-back Dede. The 23-year-old Brazil international netted his side’s third and fourth goals, before setting up a tie-clinching 82nd-minute winner for Alecsandro. However, as the final whistle sounded and Vascaínos went wild in the stands, Dede expressed an adverse emotion.
With minutes remaining, substitute Bernardo had neglected the chance to shoot to attempt what Dede considered a foolish dribble. The latter was not about to let the former off the hook. The ex-Volta Redonda player briskly headed towards Bernardo, his finger pointing in fury, and as the pair squared up, he called his 21-year-old team-mate a “kid” before screaming, “football is serious”.
Dede and Bernardo were nevertheless all smiles yesterday, and their team-mates have confirmed they have put the incident behind them. Right-sided attacker Eder Luis said, laughing: “[Dede] was angry, right? And with good reason.
“Nobody wanted to lose, so this type of reproach is good. I didn’t think it was show-boating, but at that moment in the game, Dede thought he should have shot quickly. Bernardo took another decision and it didn’t come off. But I think he’ll think twice about doing that next time!”
Brazil midfielder Romulo, who was ineligible to play against Universitario but will be at coach Cristovao Borges’ disposal for the semi-final against Libertad or Liga de Quito, added: “Run-ins are part and parcel of the game on the field, because emotions are high. But an argument is worthwhile if it helps the squad.”
Vasco will return to action against Botafogo, who lie just three points behind them in fourth, in the Brasileirao on Sunday. O Fogão won the sides' first meeting of the campaign 4-0 in August.