COPA LIBERTADORES REVIEW – Group Stage Week One – 12th-14th February 2013

Recoba show rescues point for Nacional, Boca slip up at La Bombonera and Huachipato hold out to surprise Gremio

Group 1

Nacional (Uru) 2 (Abreu 69, Alonso 90)

Barcelona (Ecu) 2 (Diaz 18, Nahuelpan 26)

Nacional recovered from an abysmal first half display to claim a crucial point, almost single-handedly thanks to an inspired display from Alvaro Recoba. The veteran midfielder came off the bench to fully impose himself on this fixture, supplying his teammates with an array of delightful crosses.

The Uruguayan’s did begin the contest brightly although they will regret not taking the lead early on. Gonzalo Bueno did well to advance to the byline, before distributing an inviting ball across the box for Ivan Alonso who somehow managed to fire his effort over the bar. Bueno and Juan Albin both looked lively and were pro-active in midfield but Nacional came to regret not seizing upon that opportunity.

Direct play from Barcelona would prove to be the chosen method to break the deadlock between the two sides. Maximo Bangeura sent a huge goal kick up pitch for Ariel Nahuelpan to feed upon, powerfully winning a flick-on for Damian Diaz. A moment of brilliance followed as Diaz let the ball bounce before unleashing an excellent volley from 25 yards out. The visitors naturally were delighted to take the lead against the run of play.

The goal seemed to spur Barcelona on as they began to ooze confidence with some neat passing plus some eye-catching skill on display too. Michael Arroyo and Geovanny Nazareno proved this theory correct in the lead up to Barcelona’s second. Arroyo slipped a pass down the channel for Nazareno and he took out two defenders with one touch before cutting the ball back for Nahuelpan to score into an empty net. The cutback from Nazareno also took Nacional goalkeeper Jorge Bava out of the equation by luring him in, making the move even more pleasing on the eye.

Nacional were outplayed for the remainder of the first half with Barcelona allowed to pass the ball around with an overwhelming amount of freedom. Arroyo was basically given a free pass to spread his passes anywhere he pleased with his trickery also forcing the home side’s defence on the backfoot. Diaz almost made it 3-0 before the interval, attempting to double his tally with another spectacular strike. This time his long-range effort hit the side netting but the shot’s swerve and dip kept Bava alert.

For the opening few minutes of the second half it looked as if Barcelona would continue their dominance until the final whistle with Arroyo delighting spectators with stepovers aplenty, along with some decent fluid passing sequences from his teammates. However a double substitution after 57 minutes changed the look of the game completely.

The introduction of experienced campaigners, Sebastián ‘Loco’ Abreu and Alvaro Recoba brought a sense of maturity and craft to the table for Nacional that they desperately lacked beforehand. The latter was the architect for both of the goals for Nacional and we can only wonder how much havoc he could have caused to the Barcelona defence if he was brought on at half-time.

Within minutes of Recoba stepping onto the pitch, his presence clearly unsettled the rhythm Barcelona had previously built up. A fairly standard free-kick from the former Internazionale man worried Banguera, spilling the ball needlessly, almost spelling danger. His influence rubbed off on Santiago Romero too, as his strike from distance troubled Banguera enough to tip the effort over his bar.

Abreu was the man to give Nacional an element of hope by grabbing one back with 21 minutes to go. Both the substitutes combined as Recoba delivered a fine corner to the back post for Abreu to comfortably head in. Far too much space was given to the forward at the back post for a man of his aerial quality.

The goal proved not to be the only twist as Chilean referee, Enrique Osses, rightfully received major criticism after the game. His first imprint on proceedings was his dubious decision to send off Barcelona’s Jose Perlaza. He was given a second yellow card for a push to the chest of Loco Abreu. Harsh decision in my eyes. A couple more scuffles involving players from both teams followed before Osses made himself a target for ridicule. Nacional defender Alejandro Lembo received a second yellow card for a bad tackle but to the surprise of many, was allowed to stay on the pitch for a further five minutes. Osses realised the error of his ways before belatedly confirming the red card. Better late than never I suppose.

Recoba continued to probe the Barcelona backline with some sumptuous passes and crosses until he finally unlocked them in the dying embers of the game. He crafted a perfect ball into the box, slicing apart goalkeeper and defence, and there was Alonso to make amends for his first half miss to slot home a dramatic equaliser.

Barcelona will no doubt be disappointed that they threw away the victory here but the class on show from Recoba was something to behold.

Star man: Alvaro Recoba (Nacional) – Although the veteran midfielder only played a third of the game, his impact overshadowed everyone else on the pitch. Inch-perfect delivery for Nacional’s equaliser being the highlight.

Nacional: Bava, Lembo, Álvarez (Abreu 57), Cortés, A. Romero, Albín (Recoba 57), Damonte, S. Romero, Sánchez (Luna 46), Alonso, Bueno

Barcelona: Banguera, Perlaza, Nazareno, Saucedo, Erazo, Oyola, Díaz, Olmedo, Paredes, Arroyo (Ayoví 72), Nahuelpan


Boca Juniors (Arg) 1 (Silva (pen) 23)

Toluca (Mex) 2 (Esquivel 59, Benítez 73)

Toluca stunned Boca Juniors at La Bombonera as the Mexican side recorded an impressive away victory despite being a goal behind to last season’s runners-up in the competition. Two second half goals from Carlos Esquivel and Edgar Benítez ensured the full quota of points, after Santiago Silva had put the home side in front from the penalty spot.Both sides looked cautious in the opening exchanges as they focused on maintaining possession with neither team forcing a save from either goalkeeper. Unsurprisingly, the opening goal of the game from the penalty spot in an otherwise uneventful first 30 minutes. Neutral spectators would have been pleased with the decision to award Boca a penalty as it broke up the monotony of the midfield battle on display. Lautaro Acosta was tripped up by Diego Novaretti and there could be no dispute over the decision. Santiago Silva then stepped up to confidently dispatch the spot kick into the top corner to give Boca the lead.

Conceding the goal sparked Toluca into life as they produced the first opportunity to trouble Boca’s man between the sticks, Agustin Orión. Acosta was put under pressure to pass back to Christan Cellay and it was the full back’s lapse in concentration that set up the opportunity. His lack of alertness and poor control allowed Benitez to surge past him on the outside and slip a pass into the area from the byline. Luis Tejada seized upon the ball into the box and Orion made himself imposing to save. A lucky escape for Boca.

As the half came to a close there was only one other significant chance to speak of. Juan Martínez hit a powerful strike to sting the palms of Alfredo Talavera but in truth it was a half that will not take long to bypass the memory.

It was a mixed start to the second half for Boca with Clemente Rodríguez coming close forcing Talavera to parry away his fizzing long-range effort but their fortunes were about to change. Toluca earnt themselves a penalty seven minutes into the second half as Boca replicated the penalty incident from the first half. This time it was a poor challenge from Matias Caruzzo, tripping up the ever dangerous Benítez. Gerardo Rodríguez stepped up to take the penalty and it was an appalling one to be honest. Orion guessed the right way to save a tame spot kick.

Boca came close again as Silva saw his header cleared off the line by Xavier Báez but soon after the Argentinians paid the price for not putting away their chances. Fresh from the substitutes bench, Carlos Esquivel breached an awful attempt of an offside trap to find himself in acres of space to emphatically finish past Orion. Clemente Rodríguez was drawn inside from left-back and his attempt to catch out Esquivel for offside was in vain as the Mexican ghosted past him downfield. Credit must also go to Sinha in delivering a fine ball over the top.

New Boca signing, Martínez wasted another opportunity for the hosts as his header missed the top corner before Toluca sent the La Bombonera into silence for a second time. The defence showed their frailties once more as their high line was caught out yet again. Sinha guided a lovely ball in between two defenders for Benítez to latch onto and it was his finish that was something to behold. After Lisandro Magallán lost his bearings to let Benítez through, the Paraguayan international delightfully chipped Orion to score a magnificent goal. You can see this below:

Boca Juniors were stunned by the comeback and lacked ideas in the final stages as they pressed for an equaliser. A Caruzzo header flashed across the area with Walter Erviti unable to apply a final touch and Lucas Viatri hit the post with a driven effort late on but it was not to be Boca’s day. Carlos Bianchi suffered his first defeat in his third spell as coach and his main focus will surely be to shore up his defence in the coming weeks.

Star man: Edgar Benítez (Toluca) – His ability to run in behind defenders troubled Boca all game in this one and his winning goal was nothing short of sublime.

Boca Juniors: Orion, Rodríguez, Caruzzo, Burdisso, Cellay (Magallán 57), Somosa (Fernández 83), Erbes, Erviti, Acosta, Martínez, Silva (Viatri 66)

Toluca: Talavera, Gamboa, Rodríguez, Novaretti, Acosta, Sinha, Báez (Lucas Silva 58), Wilson Mathias, Tejada (Ríos 78), Benítez, Santos (Esquivel 58)


Group 2

Palmeiras (Bra) 2 (Henrique 40, Patrick Vieira 68)
Sporting Cristal (Per) 1 Lobatón (pen 52)

Palmeiras opened their account with the full three points seeing off the challenge of Peruvian Primera Division champions, Sporting Cristal. Henrique gave the Brazilians the lead five minutes before the interval, heading in from Wesley’s corner. The visitors didn’t take long to equalise, levelling the scorelines on 52 minutes thanks to a Carlos Lobatón penalty after he was fouled on the edge of the area. Palmeiras restored their lead and claimed the victory through Patrick Vieira, as he viciously struck his effort into the net from close range after a delicate lay off from Caio.21/02: Tigre (Arg) v Libertad (Par)


Group 3

Atlético Mineiro (Bra) 2 (Jô 13, Réver 73)

São Paulo (Bra) 1 (Aloisio 83)

Atlético Mineiro claimed the bragging rights after victory in this all Brazilian clash. Awful defending allowed the home side to take the lead as Ronaldinho was left in acres of space from a throw-in after Rogerio Ceni naively offered him some liquid refreshment to tee up Jô to score. Take a look below:

Ronaldinho again produced some magical play, teasing defenders before making his way to the byline and Réver headed his cross into the net to make it 2-0. Aloisio did pull one back for São Paulo but it was not enough to salvage a draw.


The Strongest (Bol) 2 (Chumacero 18, Melgar 84)

Arsenal De Sarandi (Arg) 1 (Benedetto 49)Arsenal de Sarandi fell to defeat away in Bolivia and could find life tough as they face now have to face four consecutive ties against the two Brazilian sides. Alejandro Chumacero provided an excellent opening goal from long range with the shot bouncing just in front of Emiliano Olivero’s outstretched arm, deceiving the keeper. The Arsenal equaliser was just as enjoyable to watch with Dario Benedetto leaving Daniel Vaca rooted to his line from his 25-yard free-kick. The Strongest secured the win late on from a corner as Luis Melgar got in front of his defender at the near post to score.


Group 4

Emelec (Ecu) 1 (Ferreyra og 50)

Vélez Sarsfield (Arg) 0

Emelec secured a narrow victory over the recent Torneo Inicial champions, Velez thanks to an own goal from the away side’s star forward. A free-kick from near the corner flag was flicked on before deflecting into the net off Facundo Ferreyra. Emelec produced an impressive defensive display to cling onto a clean sheet and claim the win.


Deportes Iquique (Chi) 1 (Villalobos 59)

Peñarol (Uru) 2 (Estoyanoff 5, Olivera 72)

Uruguayan giants Peñarol kicked off their campaign with the full share of the spoils as their experience came to the fore. Iquique, in their first Libertadores campaign, were carved upon after only five minutes. Sebastian Cristóforo, fresh from Uruguay’s successful qualification for the under-20 World Cup, lifted a ball over the Iquique defence for Fabian Estoyanoff to race onto before applying a smart finish past Rodrigo Naranjo. The Iquique keeper got a hand to the shot but was not enough to keep it out.There was a slight controversy surrounding the Iquique equaliser as a corner was given instead of a clear-to-see goal kick decision. Despite this, we were given the opportunity to see a well worked move that created the goal. A short corner routine released Edson Puch who took advantage of the space given to him to take the ball to the byline, squaring a pass across the area for Manuel Villalobos to slot home.

Los Aurinegros sealed the victory with 18 minutes left thanks to Juan Olivera. Estoyanoff ran in between the two Iquique centre-halfs and set up an easy finish for Olivera, scoring into an empty net.


Group 5

Both games in Group 5 are next week with reigning Copa Libertadores champions, Corinthians, facing a potentially tricky away tie in Bolivia against San José.

20/02: Millonarios (Col) v Tijuana (Mex)

20/02: San José (Bol) v Corinthians (Bra)


Group 6

Real Garcilaso (Per) 1 (Bogado 76)

Independiente Santa Fe (Col) 1 (Martínez Borja 15)

It was honours even in Peru as Real Garcilaso equalised in the second half to grab a point in their first ever game in the competition. Christian Martínez Borja put the visitors from Colombia into the lead as he pounced upon a save from Luis Arias’ shot to score on the rebound. The Peruvians ensured Santa Fe would not walk away with the three points thanks to a late goal from defender, Rolando Bogado. The defender looped his header from a corner kick into the top corner to score Garcilaso’s first ever goal in the Copa Libertadores.


Deportes Tolima (Col) 2 (Cardozo og 32, Silva 59)

Cerro Porteño (Par) 1 (Martínez 77)

Cerro Porteno will rue conceding a sloppy own goal as they slipped to defeat away in Tolima. The Colombians opened the scoring through a shambolic own goal from Luis Cardozo after his fellow defender failed with an attempted clearance. Deportes Tolima doubled their lead after they caught Cerro on the break with David Silva completing the move. The Paraguayans pulled one back thanks to a combination of a header from Williams Martínez and poor goalkeeping from Antony Silva.


Group 7

Universidad De Chile (Chi) 2 (Ubilla 34, 76)

Deportivo Lara (Ven) 0

2012 semi-finalists, Uni De Chile kicked off their latest campaign with a win as they attempt to at least emulate last seasons performances. The Chileans arguably have a depleted squad this year in comparison and this win will do them no harm as they attempt to write off the critics. It was a much needed victory for new coach, Dario Franco after his side came into this game fresh off a 3-0 domestic defeat at the hands of Union Espanola.Sebastian Ubilla put the sword to the Venezuelan opponents, firstly scoring a fine volley after a cute lobbed ball into the box which cut out two defenders. Uni De Chile then scored a fine counter attacking goal with Ubilla completing the move by taking the ball away from goalkeeper and defender, before chipping the ball over the head of the defender on the line. See his fine finish below:


Newell’s Old Boys (Arg) 3 (Scocco (pen) 70, Orzán 76, Rodríguez 90)

Olimpia (Par) 1 (Bareiro 88)

Newell’s completed a convincing victory over their Paraguayan opponents with a solid second half display. Ignacio Scocco scored the first from the penalty spot before Horacio Orzán scored a tap-in after being set up by Pablo Pérez. Olimpia pulled one back to give themselves hope with two minutes left as Fredy Bareiro headed home. Although veteran midfielder, Maxi Rodríguez was on hand to seal the three points for the men from Rosario in injury time.


Group 8

Grêmio (Bra) 1 (Barcos pen 54)

Huachipato (Chi) 2 (Falcone 17, Rodríguez 51)

Huachipato produced an impressive display of grit and determination to hold off their heavyweight Brazilian opponents, Grêmio. The home side looked out of sorts against the reigning Chilean Clausura champions, as they struggled to break down their far less illustrious opposition.Grêmio were ineffective in front of goal throughout the contest as Huachipato put their bodies on the line and counter attacked well when given the opportunity. Braian Rodríguez was a contast menace to the Grêmio defence and they struggled to deal with him all game long. The first warning sign came as he turned smartly before forcing Marcelo Grohe to tip his effort from outside the area over the bar.

The star-studded Grêmio lineup included several new signings with the likes of Eduardo Vargos, Hernan Barcos, Andre Santos & Cris all lining up, but these names on the teamsheet meant nothing as Huachipato stunned the hosts on 17 minutes to take the lead. Rodríguez this time turned provider as he delivered an enticing ball across the box for Federico Falcone to fire into the top corner.

Huachipato worked hard all over the pitch as the hosts were forced to resort to long-range efforts, mostly to no success. The one shot from distance that troubled Los Acereros keeper Nery Veloso came from their usual talisman, Elano. Veloso matched the quality of the strike by palming the ball behind as the shot was destined to nestle in the top corner. Huachipato almost sneaked a second on two occasions just before the interval from that man, Rodríguez. Marcelo Grohe unconvincingly turned his first shot behind and his save could’ve ended up anywhere in truth. He then used his power to rob the ball away from Saimon forcing Grohe to save this time with his foot.

Six minutes into the second half, the minnows in Libertadores terms from Chile shocked the Brazilians by doubling their advantage. Rodríguez finally got his reward for this efforts, scoring a superb header from an exquisite cross by Jose Contreras. It was no less than Huachipato deserved as Grêmio lacked ideas and penetration in the final third.

The one blemish on an otherwise perfect performance for Huachipato was the fact they conceded a penalty shortly after they had scored their second. Contreras was penalised for a handball although the decision was somewhat harsh considering the venom in the strike though more innocuous decisions have been made. Hernan Barcos stepped up to score the penalty on his debut after signing from fellow Libertadores entrants, Palmeiras.

Huachipato put in a spirited display to hold firm and keep their lead in tact. Welliton was wasteful as he scuffed his effort wide when he really should have scored and Veloso spectacularly saved a header in the dying seconds to send the visitors into moments of rapture. Credit must go the the defensive work put in in the latter stages and it was pretty much a flawless performance at the back. On this showing it may take Grêmio a while to gel together all their star names as they lacked cohesion here.

Star man: Brian Rodríguez (Hauchipato) – Grêmio struggled to deal with him as he dominated them on numerous occasions. A fine goal complimented with an assist.

Grêmio: Marcelo Grohe, Pará, Saimon, Cris, André Santos (Marco Antônio 73), Adriano (Moreno 46), Souza, Elano, Zé Roberto, Vargas (Welliton 73), Barcos

Huachipato: Veloso, Contreras, Labrín, Muñoz, Crovetto, Sandoval, Yedro, Arrué (Aceval 74), Reynero (Nuñez 61), Falcone (González 85), Rodríguez


Caracas (Ven) 0

Fluminense (Bra) 1 (Fred 32)

The Brasilerao champions did what was required to seal a tricky win away in Venezuela. Brazilian international forward, Fred, pounced upon a ricochet from a defensive block to fire his effort into the top corner after 32 minutes. Fluminense survived a late onslaught from Caracas including a near miss after an indirect free-kick in their own box, as Diego Cavalieri made the mistake of handling a backpass but they did just enough to ensure victory.

James Hunt

James runs and click on his name to follow him on Twitter

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