Is this the biggest bottle job in football history? Brazilian club Botafogo were 14 points clear at the top… but then won just two of 15 games – including a string of late collapses – to blow their lead
The Brazilian league has completed one of the most exciting title races in world football, with four clubs still in with a chance of victory with two games to go.
But that will be no consolation for Botafogo, who is on the brink of one of the biggest bottle jobs in history.
The Rio de Janeiro team, who have not won a league title since 1995, won 15 of their first 19 games in Serie A this season to build a 14-point lead at the top.
But since then they have really suffocated, winning just two of their last fifteen games.
That has left them three points behind leaders Palmeiras going into the final two rounds level with both Atletico Mineiro and Flamengo in an extraordinary finish.
Botafogo are in a nightmare situation after blowing a 14-point lead at the top of Brazil’s top division and being overtaken by Palmeiras in the title race
With two rounds of the season to go, four teams can still win the title in Brazil
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What’s worse for Botafogo is that they have very much been the architects of their own demise, not only through the torrid run of results, but also by folding within games.
Earlier this month they led Palmeiras 3-0 at home, but ultimately lost 4-3. There was also a collapse of a 3–1 lead against Gremio, who lost by the same score.
In recent weeks they have seen two crucial points slip through their fingers in two matches when both Red Bull Bragantino and Santos scored a last-minute equalizer.
And there were even more extraordinary scenes on Wednesday night when they somehow conspired to draw against relegated Coritiba after going in front in the 97th minute.
When Tiquinho Soares converted an injury-time penalty, Botafogo thought they had claimed a priceless victory to keep their title dream alive.
But in the 99th minute they switched off at the back, allowing Coritiba’s Edu to equalize at the back post with the last kick of the match.
It leaves Palmeiras, the reigning Brazilian champions, in pole position with their three-point lead.
They host seventh-placed Fluminense on Sunday in their penultimate match of the season, before Botafogo host Cruzeiro later in the evening.
Botafogo thought they were on course for a crucial win when Tiquinho Soares converted a penalty in the 97th minute of Wednesday night’s clash with Coritiba
But Coritiba leveled in the 99th minute, much to the dismay of the Botafogo players
Botafogo coach Tiago Nunes looks on in dismay as his team misses another golden opportunity
When it comes to the final day on December 7, Palmeiras is away to Cruzeiro and Botafogo goes to Internacional.
Atletico Mineiro host Sao Paulo in their next match before heading to Bahia, while Flamengo play at home against Cuiaba and then Sao Paulo.
Like Botafogo, these two will need Palmeiras to make a mistake if they want to take the title from them.
Should two or more title contenders finish level on points, they will be separated first by number of wins and then by goal difference.
Strangely enough, Botafogo, Atletico Mineiro and Flamengo have all won 18 games.
The collapse of Botafogo has not been without controversy. Their owner John Textor, who also owns Crystal Palace and Lyon, railed against ‘corruption’ after their dramatic loss to Palmeiras.
Textor terminated the services of former Wolves boss Bruno Lage at the beginning of October after results started to decline.
The match revolved around a controversial red card handed to Botafogo defender Adryelson after a lengthy VAR check, while the score was still 3–1.
Crystal Palace US billionaire co-owner John Textor lost his cool on live TV in Brazil
Textor owns Brazilian side Botafogo, which threw away a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 to Palmeiras
Tiquinho Soares then missed a penalty for Botafogo before they conceded three goals after 84 minutes, somehow losing.
And after the match, Textor unleashed an angry tirade live on Brazilian television, accusing authorities of undermining the match.
“The whole world saw that this is not a red card, he got the ball first,” Textor grumbled. ‘I’m not sure it’s a foul. He got a red card, it changed the game, this is corruption, this is theft.
‘Would you please fine me, Ednaldo (Rodrigues – president of the Brazilian Football Federation), but tomorrow morning you must resign. That’s what needs to be done.
‘This championship is a joke. Nobody deserves this, Palmeiras doesn’t want to win like this, we don’t want to lose like this.”
Textor, who conducted this on-field interview with Brazilian channel sporTV, then turned to the Palmeiras players as they walked into the tunnel.
He added: “Gentlemen, you played a good game. It’s not your fault, but this is damn corruption.
‘This has to change. Ednaldo, you must resign for the good of the game. It must be over now.
‘This is theft. Fine, you can give me a red card, it’s my stadium, I’ll still be there.’