COPA LIBERTADORES: SEMI-FINAL REPORT

CopaLibertadores

WEDNESDAY 10TH JULY – SEMI FINAL – SECOND LEG

SANTA FE (COL) 1-0 OLIMPIA (PAR)

OLIMPIA WIN 2-1 ON AGG.

Santa Fe failed to turn around the 2-0 deficit from last week’s semi-final first-leg on Tuesday night, as Paraguayan giants Olimpia move on into the Copa Libertadores final.

Wilder Medina grabbed a 76th minute to give the Colombia side some hope of reaching their first Copa Libertadores final but unfortunately Santa Fe ran out of time, and could not find the second goal to take the tie into a penalty shootout. Olimpia will now play in their seventh Libertadores final, where they will seek a fourth trophy.

After a 2-0 defeat in Asuncion last Tuesday, hosts Santa Fe had little option but to attack from the first minute of the game. Emanuel Molina had to be replaced just seven minutes in due to injury with Cristian Martinez-Borja taking his place.

Medina went close to the opening goal just after the half-hour but his overhead kick from Martinez-Borja’s cross went just wide. That was the best chance prior to their 75th-minute goal, which came after Olimpia keeper Martin Silva turned Omar Perez’s free-kick on to the post. Medina’s follow-up was also beaten away by Silva but Uruguayan referee Martin Vazquez and his assistant ruled the ball had already crossed the line.

The 48,000 Santa Fe supporters at the Estadio El Campin urged their players on in search of the goal that would have taken the match to penalties, but Martín Silva saved a number of shots and Martinez-Borja struck the left post in the 83rd minute.

Olimpia, Libertadores champions in 1979, 1990 and 2002, now await either Atletico Mineiro or Newell’s Old Boys, who also hold a 2-0 first-leg lead going into tomorrow night’s semi-final second leg in Belo Horizonte.

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THURSDAY 11TH JULY – SEMI FINAL – SECOND LEG

ATLETICO MINIERO (BRA) 2-0

NEWELLS OLD BOYS (ARG)

2-2 ON AGG – MINIERO WIN 3-2 ON PENS

Newell’s Old Boys lost out on their place in the Copa Libertadores Final as they squandered their first leg lead in Belo Horizonte against Atletico Miniero and ended up experiencing the cruelest of cup exits on penalties.

Leading 2-0 from the first leg in Rosario, Manager, Gerardo Martino had promised to attack Miniero and was all too aware of the dangers that the Brasilians posed but in the end could his side came up just short. An early goal from wonderkid, Bernard and a late strike from Guilherme sent the tie straight to the dreaded penalties and as both sides missed countless opportunities it eventually fell to two of the most experienced players on the pitch: Ronaldinho converted and the n Maxi Rodriguez saw his effort saved to send Miniero into the final to face Paraguay’s, Olimpia.

With the attacking prowess that Atletico Miniero have they would have always fancied their chances at overhauling the two-goal-deficit but they got the dream start. After just 3 minutes Ronaldinho was able to thread the crucial pass, that he had failed to do in the first leg, and found the pacy Bernard. In one motion the youngster ran onto the ball and expertly finished past Nahuel Guzman.

The game was well and truly back on but got worse for Newell’s in the next few moments. Influential defender, Gabriel Heinze limped off before the half hour mark at the time when Newell’s could have done with his experience.

Despite this Newell’s soaked up much of the pressure that Miniero exerted on them. Bernard, Ronaldinho, Diego Tardelli and Jo were more of a latent threat than causing Guzman’s goal any real cause for alarm. Midway through the second half the floodlights failed and so there was a holdup for 10 minutes or so which added to the tension but when the game got back underway it looked as though Newell’s may have done enough to cling on.

However, with time running down a weak clearance from Diego Mateo only got as far as substitute, Guilherme and he fired the ball back through the crowd and into the bottom corner sending the Brasilian crowd into rapture and the tie to penalties.

Atletico Miniero took the first kick which was coolly placed into the top corner by Alecsandro putting the pressure on Newell’s top scorer, Ignacio Scocco. Having missed his previous 3 penalties you might have been forgiven for thinking he would be lacking confidence but Scocco opted for the chip down the middle to level the shootout. Guillerme and Santiago Vergini then both scored to stay level before both sides tried their best to throw it away. The next 4 penalties were missed and so it all came down to the fifth and final kick. Ronaldinho kept his cool to send Nahuel Guzman the wrong way and then the unfortunate, Maxi Rodriguez saw his penalty saved by hero, Victor.

Newell’s Old Boys battled all the way until the end as they have throughout the campaign but it will be Atletico Miniero facing Olimpia in the final. Now Newell’s must look to the future as manager, Gerardo Martino and striker, Nacho Scocco say goodbye to Rosario for pastures new and Newell’s have the unenviable task of replacing both.

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