COPA LIBERTADORES REVIEW – Group Stage Week Four – 8th-12th March 2013

2SouthAmerica

Group 1

Toluca 1 (Tejada 83) Barcelona 1 (Díaz 36)

Toluca and Barcelona shared the spoils at the Nemesio Díez with a goal from Luis Tejada denying Barcelona their first win in this year’s competition. The Ecuadorian side took the lead in the 36th minute after an excellent counter-attacking move cut apart the hosts. Michael Arroyo found himself with plenty of space to advance into the Toluca half as he laid off a pass to Ariel Nahuelpán. The Argentinian forward then slipped the ball through for Damian Díaz, and he produced a fine stepover to confuse Diego Novaretti, plus shape himself up on his left foot to slide the ball past Alfredo Talavera.

The Toluca equaliser was also a fine goal in it’s own right. A superb in-swinging cross into area from Edy Brambila was inch-perfect in splitting two Barcelona defenders, and Tejada met the ball in with a powerful header to score at the near post. The return fixture between these two teams next week could prove crucial if either is to progress from the group stage.

Boca Juniors 0 Nacional 1 (Scotti 20)

Both Boca and Nacional have endured indifferent starts to 2013 although Boca will have more cause for concern with their Libertadores form following this loss. Nacional disposed of coach Gustavo Diaz just a few days ago but interim boss, Juan Carlos Blanco, and his side edged this encounter by a single goal to leave Boca coach, Carlos Bianchi, with a tricky run-in as they hope to advance to the next stage. Boca now have two problematic away ties against Nacional and Toluca to overcome in their quest to finish in the top two.

Boca slipped to a shock 3-1 domestic defeat at the weekend to lowly Unión Santa Fe in a performance that included some awful defensive displays. Shoring up the backline needed to be the home side’s priority. However, they worryingly conceded another goal that could have been avoided with some routine defending. Claudio Pérez was assigned the role of staying tight to Andrés Scotti, but the Nacional man escaped the attention of the Boca centre half to run in towards the near post, then he rose the highest to head in a Juan Albín corner kick.

To be fair to Boca, the only goal conceded was from a set piece but in this game it would be their lack of goalscoring prowess that would backfire on them. Nacional put their bodies on the line as the home side peppered the visitors goalmouth shortly after the opening goal but the Uruguayan side withstood the pressure. Jorge Bava was also on top form in the Nacional goal to thwart Boca as he denied both Juan Martínez and Clemente Rodríguez before the half-time whistle.

Juan Román Riquelme returned to the fold for Boca in that game against Unión Santa Fe and as he continued his development towards full fitness, he could not impact himself on this game in the desired manner. He did offer Pérez a golden opportunity to score from one of his trademark free-kick deliveries shortly after the break, but the defender somehow headed over from point-blank range.

The story of the second half was one of frustration for Boca as Nacional sat back and defended their lead, doing a sterling job of it in the process. The away side did make life a little harder for themselves as they were forced to hold off Boca for the final sixteen minutes with ten men. Alejandro Lembo protested his way into receiving a second yellow card as he prevented a free-kick from being taken. Nacional did manage to hold firm however and claimed all three points and this result leaves Boca in a potentially precarious position.

Standings:

#   TEAM PLD W D L F A D PTS
1   Nacional 3 2 1 0 6 4 +2 7
2   Toluca 3 1 1 1 5 5 +0 4
3 Previous rank: 4 Boca Juniors 3 1 0 2 3 4 -1 3
4 Previous rank: 3 Barcelona 3 0 2 1 4 5 -1 2  

Group 2

Libertad 2 (Pedro Benítez 68, Núñez 88)  Sporting Cristal 2 (Ávila 25, 65)

Sporting Cristal threw away a two-goal lead as Libertad clawed back the deficit late in the second half. The result ensures Libertad maintain their unbeaten start to this year’s Copa Libertadores, while Sporting Cristal missed out on their opportunity to top the group.

The visitors from Peru took the lead in the 25th minute after some slack defensive positioning allowed Irven Ávila plenty of room to divert in a cross from Eduardo Uribe at the near post. Libertad then wasted a chance to level the scorelines from the penalty spot. The penalty was awarded because of a block from Jesus Álvarez on Sergio Aquino. He then stepped up to take the spot kick himself but was denied as Diego Penny dived the correct way to save.

Few people would have given Sporting Cristal the chance of a win here but they began to dream when Ávila scored his second with 25 minutes to go. A sudden burst of pace from Junior Ross drew the Libertad defenders towards him which in turn opened up the space to guide a pass across the area for Ávila to tap into an unguarded net.

Sporting Cristal turned out to take their lead for granted as Libertad pulled one back only three minutes later. A cross created problems in the Peruvian side’s defence and as Pablo Velázquez was mauled to the ground, Pedro Benítez was there to sidefoot the ball in from a couple of yards out. Not the prettiest goal you would ever see but it gave the home side hope.

Los Repolleros had the wind in their sails as they scored an equaliser with only two minutes left on the clock. A poor headed clearance enabled Aquino to head back across the box and there was Ariel Núñez to expertly volley into the far corner. Sporting Cristal will see this as two points dropped as opposed to a valuable away point.

Tigre 1 (Peñalba 90) Palmeiras 0

Tigre claimed their first win of the campaign with a last-gasp goal from Gabriel Peñalba four minutes into injury time to see off the challenge of Palmeiras. Both sides now have just the solitary win from the opening three games to show for their efforts.

In a first half that lacked much in the way of cut and thrust, each side had only one decent chance to speak of. For Tigre, Mariano Echeverría had an effort saved at point-blank range by Fernando Prass. As for Palmeiras, Wesley’s flick-on header at the near post was well saved at the near post by Agustin Cousillas. Palmeiras created the best opportunites in the second half with Cousillas acrobatically saving a driven shot from Patrick Vieira, and Charles was unlucky to see his powerful drive land the wrong side of the post.

The outlook of the game would change in the 87th minute as Palmeiras were reduced to ten men after Vilson picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Leandro Leguizamón. Tigre then had the man advantage and made that count as they scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Diego Ferreira headed down a ball into the box from a free-kick to offer up a simple finish for Peñalba to give Tigre a dramatic late winner. At the halfway stage, both of these teams are still in with a shout of qualification as they sit only one point behind Sporting Cristal in second.

Standings:

#   TEAM PLD W D L F A D PTS    
1   Libertad 3 2 1 0 6 2 +4 7  
2 Previous rank: 3 Sporting Cristal 3 1 1 1 5 4 +1 4  
3 Previous rank: 2 Palmeiras 3 1 0 2 2 4 -2 3
4   Tigre 3 1 0 2 1 4 -3 3  

Group 3

São Paulo 1 (Jádson 45) Arsenal de Sarandi 1 (Benedetto (pen) 49)

Arsenal de Sarandi put their 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Atlético Mineiro last week behind them, to record their first point of the group stage at the Pacaembu. A Dario Benedetto penalty shortly after the interval cancelled out Jádson’s first half stoppage time goal.

São Paulo were unfortunate to hit the woodwork twice in the first half before a scintillating counter attack gave the hosts the lead. At the end of the breakaway, Aloisio performed a sublime backheel down at the byline before Jádson smashed his near post effort off the crossbar and into the net. 

Arsenal did not take long to get themselves onto the scoresheet and back on level terms. Four minutes into the second half, Cortez was penalised for handball and despite the protests from the  São Paulo players, the decision stood. Benedetto converted his penalty with incredible power and accuracy, so much so that Rogério Ceni was left rooted to the spot. Pressure was piled on in the latter stages by São Paulo but Arsenal would hold on to secure a draw.

Atlético Mineiro 2 (Jô 57, Ronaldinho (pen) 73) The Strongest 1 (Melgar 90)

Atlético Mineiro maintained their 100% record as The Strongest fell to their second narrow away defeat in consecutive weeks in Brazil. The Bolivian side lost by the same scoreline to São Paulo last week, but are still in contention to advance as they sit only a point behind São Paulo at the halfway stage.

Atlético Mineiro did not manage to find the breakthrough until twelve minutes into the second half thanks to a goal from Jô. A failed headed clearance from a Ronaldinho cross found the forward at the back post and he calmly sidefooted the ball in. Ronaldinho then laid on a superb reverse pass to enable Marcos Rocha to run into the area before drawing the foul to earn Atlético Mineiro a penalty in the 73rd minute. Ronaldinho made amends for his penalty miss against Arsenal last week to make it 2-0 to the hosts.

The Strongest did pull one back in second half injury time but it was all too late. Luis Melgar scored from close range but Atlético Mineiro claimed another three points with their qualification all but sown up.

Standings:

#   TEAM PLD W D L F A D PTS  
1   Atlético Mineiro 3 3 0 0 9 4 +5 9
2 Previous rank: 4 São Paulo 3 1 1 1 4 4 +0 4  
3 Previous rank: 2 The Strongest 3 1 0 2 4 5 -1 3  
4 Previous rank: 3 Arsenal 3 0 1 2 4 8 -4 1  

Group 4

Emelec 2 (De Jesús 57, Angulo 75) Deportes Iquique 1 (Villalobos 79)

Emelec sought revenge for their defeat to Deportes Iquique last week by grabbing all three points at home in the reverse fixture in Guayaquil. It took until the 57th minute for the Ecuadorian side to make the breakthrough thanks to a headed goal from Marlon De Jesús. Pedro Quiñónez was the man supplied who supplied the assist as his corner accurately found the forward to head in at the far post. Emelec looked good value for the win as they doubled their lead with fifteen minutes to go. Vinicio Angulo smashed the ball into the roof of the net after a previous shot deflected into his path.

Deportes Iquique did pull one back four minutes later though it would not be enough for the visitors. Manuel Villalobos guided a header from a long pass around advancing goalkeeper, Esteban Dreer, before slotting the ball into an empty net. A fine piece of composure from Villalobos but the positioning of Dreer must be put into question. Both teams could still advance to the next round in what is a tight group.

Standings:

#   TEAM PLD W D L F A D PTS  
1   Vélez Sarsfield 3 2 0 1 4 1 +3 6
2   Peñarol 3 2 0 1 3 2 +1 6
3   Emelec 4 2 0 2 3 4 -1 6
4   Deportes Iquique 4 1 0 3 4 7 -3 3

Group 5

Millonarios 2 (Franco 17, Rentería 81) San José 1 (Saucedo 45)

Millonarios got off the mark at the third time of asking with a narrow 2-1 victory over San José. The Colombian side took the lead in the 17th minute thanks to a bullet header from Pedro Franco from Mayer Candelo’s corner. The Bolivian side changed the complexion of the half-time teams talks by grabbing an equaliser in first half injury time. Diego Cabrera advanced past a poor challenge on the right before centering the ball to Carlos Saucedo who was in acres of space in the Millonarios box. Saucedo then showed incredible self assurance to take the ball past one sliding challenge before executing a cute lob over Luis Delgado, with the Millonarios goalkeeper scambling around on the deck.

The crowd at El Campin would be treated to a win in the end though as Wason Rentería sealed victory for Millonarios late on. Poor defending from San José allowed Yuber Asprilla to cut the ball back from the byline and Rentería was left with an easy task to score. Millonarios now face the return trip to Bolivia and will need to complete a double over San José to impose themselves on this group.

Tijuana 1 (Gandolfi 65) Corinthians 0

Tijuana made it 3 wins out of 3 as they completed an impressive victory over reigning Libertadores holders, Corinthians. The Mexican side could also be difficult to beat in this season’s campaign as they have also recorded three clean sheets in the process.

The only goal of the game came in the 65th minute as Javier Gandolfi improvised to backheel the ball into the net from close range, following up a flick-on header that caught the Corinthians defence out. Tijuana travel to Brazil next week for the reverse fixture in a match that could be pivotal to Corinthians’ chances of progression.

Standings:

#   TEAM PLD W D L F A D PTS
1   Tijuana 3 3 0 0 6 0 +6 9
2   Corinthians 3 1 1 1 3 2 +1 4
3 Previous rank: 4 Millonarios 3 1 0 2 2 4 -2 3
4 Previous rank: 3 San José 3 0 1 2 2 7 -5 1

Group 6

Cerro Porteño 1 (Fabbro 45) Santa Fe 2 (Pérez (pen) 59, (pen) 77)

Cerro Porteño sank to their third successive defeat to all but end their hopes of advancing from the group stage. Santa Fe remain unbeaten after three games, picking up their first win with this victory in Paraguay.

The home side did go into the break with the lead after a lovely finish from Jonathan Fabbro. A precise chipped pass into the area from Carlos Bonet found Fabbro and after neatly controlling the ball with his chest, he produced a well executed volley into the bottom corner past Camilo Vargas. Cerro Porteño lost their grip on the scoreline in the second half as Santa Fe turned things around with two Omar Pérez penalties. Luis Arias was clumsily fouled by Williams Martínez for the first penalty, with the defender picking up a yellow in the process. Martínez would then be branded Cerro Porteño’s villain as he gave away the second penalty after he had his arms all over Jefferson Cuero. Again this decision was deemed worthy of a yellow and that would be the end of Martínez. Pérez placed both penalties down the centre past Diego Barreto as the Cerro threw away their lead and chance of points.

Standings:

#   TEAM PLD W D L F A D PTS  
1 Previous rank: 2 Real Garcilaso 3 2 1 0 3 1 +2 7  
2 Previous rank: 3 Santa Fe 3 1 2 0 4 3 +1 5  
3 Previous rank: 1 Deportes Tolima 3 1 1 1 3 3 +0 4  
4   Cerro Porteño 3 0 0 3 2 5 -3 0  

Group 7

Newell’s Old Boys 1 (Scocco 45) Universidad De Chile 2 (Marino 4, Aránguiz (pen) 17)

Universidad De Chile scored twice early on against Newell’s and those two goals proved decisive in the end as Newell’s could only claw one goal back. The Chileans now top the group with only three points seperating all four teams at the halfway stage.

La U inflicted an early blow to Newell’s as they scored in only the 4th minute. Gustavo Lorenzetti provided a ball into the box from the left wing and Guillermo Marino stole a yard in front of Santiago Vergini, before adjusting his body to score in the top corner past Nahuel Guzmán.

Uni De Chile looked the more dangerous side in the opening exchanges and they made their superiority count as they added a second in the 17th minute. Sebastian Ubilla superbly controlled a long pass from Ramon Fernández with a cushioned header, then had his run halted in the area by Milton Casco to earn the visitors a penalty. Replays suggested contact may have been just outside the area but a penalty was awarded nonetheless. Charles Aránguiz smashed the penalty past Guzmán to put the visitors two to the good.

The rest of the first period was mainly played within the middle third as neither side had a cutting edge in attack though right on the stroke of half-time, Newell’s did get themselves onto the scoresheet. Ignacio Scocco is more often than not Newell’s star performer and he stepped upto the plate once more to curl in a beautiful free kick

Newell’s tried their hardest to score in the second half but found themselves up against a very solid Uni De Chile backline as they sat back and soaked up the pressure. Their best opportunity fell to Scocco in second half injury time but the Newell’s forward saw his overhead kick saved by Jhonny Herrera. Both sides also ended the contest with ten men as Gabriel Heinze was sent off for Newell’s, with Uni De Chile losing Jose Rojas to a red card also. The two sides will meet again in Santiago next week and the outlook of the standings could possibly all change depending on the result.

Olimpia 2 (Bareiro 32, 48) Deportivo Lara 2 (Fernández 71, Torrealba 86)

Olimpia threw away a two-goal lead at home to Deportivo Lara after victory looked to be ensured following two goals from Freddy Bareiro. Deportivo Lara fought back to claim a precious point with goals from Marlon Fernández and Jose Torrealba.

Bareiro scored his first after an excellent piece of skill from Juan Ferreyra just inside the box as he offloaded the ball perfectly for Bareiro to volley past Alan Liebeskind. His second goal minutes into the second half was even more pleasing on the eye. He arrowed his shot into the top corner from 20 yards out left Liebeskind helpless for the second time.

The two Olimpia goals did not knock the stuffing out of Deportivo Lara as the Venezuelan side scored twice late on in the second half. Aquiles Ocanto had only just come on off the substitutes bench but showed an admirable sense of arrogance to implement three stepovers, before centering the ball for Fernández to score in the top corner. Torrealba then superbly volleyed in an effort after he broke the offside trap from a lobbed through ball provided by Vicente Suanno. Both teams go into next weeks return trip in Venezuela locked on four points in what is sure to be a heated clash.

Standings:

#   TEAM PLD W D L F A D PTS    
1 Previous rank: 4 Universidad De Chile 3 2 0 1 4 4 +0 6  
2   Olimpia 3 1 1 1 6 5 +1 4  
3   Deportivo Lara 3 1 1 1 4 5 -1 4  
4 Previous rank: 1 Newell’s Old Boys 3 1 0 2 5 5 +0 3  

Group 8

Grêmio 4 (Barcos 16, Werley 38,  Zé Roberto 52, 73) Caracas 1 (Sánchez 60)

Grêmio’s star-studded side had too much about them as they eased to victory over Caracas in Porto Alegre. Hernan Barcos opened the scoring for the home side after 16 minutes after a catastrophic error from Caracas keeper, Alain Baroja. His only task was to catch a relatively harmless cross into his box though he managed to fumble the ball into the path of Barcos to score.

Grêmio were really enjoying themselves as they dominated proceedings and they made it 2-0 in the 38th minute. Werley raced in at the near post to powerfully head in Zé Roberto’s corner. Caracas needed the break to recharge their batteries but instead fell a further goal behind only seven minutes into the second half. Zé Roberto turned his hand to goalscoring this time as he anticipated a lovely through ball by Barcos before rounding Baroja to score.

Caracas did pull one back on the hour to give themselves some slender hope of a comeback. Andres Sánchez reacted first to a Romulo Otero free-kick, with a superb headed goal. But, Zé Roberto soon put the result beyond any doubt as he grabbed Grêmio’s fourth, applying a simple tap in to Pará’s ball across the box. Grêmio should have no problems advancing to the next round on this showing.

Fluminense 1 (Fred (pen) 31) Huachipato 1 (Núñez 71)

Huachipato have fared brilliantly on their travels so far in this tournament, picking up an impressive four points from six against the two Brazilian sides. Although qualification may be slightly out of their reach, the Chilean side have certainly upset the odds on these two occasions. A goal from Nicolas Núñez cancelled out Fred’s first half penalty to ensure Huachipato go into the final two group games with a fighting chance of finishing in the top two.

Fluminense won 2-1 in the meeting between the sides back in Chile and had the opportunity to take the lead in the 31st minute, after Deco was brought down following some simply bizarre play by goalkeeper, Nery Veloso, He made an absolute hash of an attempt to clear a backpass, then chipped the ball over Deco with his knee as the midfielder closed him down. After the audacious chip, his clearance was closed down by Thiago Neves back into the danger zone before Deco was then brought down by Núñez. Sheer madness at the back. Fred then stepped up to send Veloso the wrong way and gave Fluminense the lead.

Huachipato had enough about themselves to pull a goal back in the 71st minute as Núñez atoned for his first half error. After an initial block from a free-kick, Huachipato worked the ball into the Fluminense area mainly down to some neat trickery from Francisco Arrué. His driven ball across the six-yard box rebounded into the path of Núñez and he lashed home the equaliser. The result leaves Fluminense sitting in first place although Grêmio will play their game in hand next week versus Caracas.

Standings:


#   TEAM PLD W D L F A D PTS
1 Previous rank: 4 Fluminense 4 2 1 1 4 5 -1 7
2 Previous rank: 1 Grêmio 3 2 0 1 8 3 +5 6
3   Huachipato 4 1 1 2 5 7 -2 4
4 Previous rank: 2 Caracas 3 1 0 2 4 6 -2 3


James Hunt

James runs southamericanfootballblog.wordpress.com and click on his name to follow him on Twitter

 

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