Entering the business end of South America’s premier club competition.
The Quarter Finals of the Copa Libertadores have begun. However, it did not involve as many shocks as the previous round.
The first game of the 1/4s was played in Uruguay between Penarol and Universidad Catolica. The game was set to be a tight affair as Catolica have played at a consistently high level throughout the tournament and Penarol have performed well at home. Catolica had a good chance to take the lead through Canete but his shot was the wrong side of the post after a good give-and-go. After that, Penarol began to have a greater influence on the game and took the lead in the 38th minute through Juan Olivera after the Catolica Goalie collided with a defender and spilled the ball. Olivera was on hand to poke the ball in to the net with impressive speed. Catolica managed to stay in the game until second half stoppage time. A long ball upfield caught the Catolica ‘keeper Garces out. As the ball fell from its looping ascent, and with on rushing defenders, Garces tried to collect the ball as it bounced. The ball bounced of his chest and to the onrushing Alejandro Martinuccio who deflected the ball into the net to ensure a 2-0 victory. The result is perhaps a bit harsh on the Chileans but they cannot be counted out just yet.
Next up was Once Caldas who hosted Santos in Colombia. Wason Renteria failed to get a header on target from 6 yards out which turned out to be their best chance of the game. Neymar spurned a chance where you would usually expect him to work the Goalkeeper. However, the young Brazilian turned supplier for the only goal of the game. A nice pass with the outside of his right boot after cutting in from the flank put 20 year old Alan Patrick through who slotted the ball home to give Santos the lead. Dayro Moreno had a couple of long range attempts that never really looked like troubling the Santos ‘keeper. Later on Neymar again showed his less pleasant side with a bit of an overreaction to a challenge from Elkin Calle. He was then desperate to remind the Referee that he had already received a yellow card earlier in the game. To be fair, the card was earned, but it is never enjoyable to see such a poor degree of sportsmanship.
There was an intriguing first leg between Velez and Libertad. The Argentines haven’t performed to the best of their ability yet, while Libertad have been impressive. Unfortunately the Paraguayans have again left themselves a lot to do in the second leg. Velez went ahead through Maximiliano Moralez in the 21st minute after Libertad defenders failed to deal with an attack and were caught on the ball. Augusto Fernandez poked the ball away, drove to the byline at cut the ball back for Moralez to give Velez the lead. Libertad were always in the game but Tobias Vargas, the Libertad Goalie, gave away a penalty which Juan Martinez duly dispatched in the 75th minute. Velez ensured they would visit Paraguay in a strong position in the 81st minute after a one-two between the Velez strikers enabled Martinez to get a shot in at goal. Vargas made another schoolboy error in not getting his body behind the ball, allowing it to squirm past him and into the net. Libertad will have it all to do at home but they have proved the can do it in the last round by coming back to knock out Fluminense.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the 1/4s are Jaguares de Chiapas. The Mexicans did well to get past Junior in the last round so must have been confident in taking on the other Paraguayan team, Cerro Porteno. Jonathan Fabbro put in another great performance for Cerro, grabbing the opening goal in the 73rd minute of the game. A great knock down in the area from Fredy Bareiro gave Fabbro the opportunity to have a crack at goal. His volley got a deflection which did just enough to fool the keeper, creeping into the bottom right corner. Jaguares again didn’t give up and showed great determination, which was eventually rewarded. The young striker with English relations, Antonio Pedroza, turned up with a great header that bounced in off the post as stoppage time began to end the game 1-1. It will be a great game in Asuncion as the Mexicans just can’t be counted out. Cerro will need Roberto Nanni to find the net again soon if they want to progress. His goals have dried up in the Copa in recent weeks.
No team is by any means out of the competition, but Velez and Santos have taken big steps towards qualification for the Semi’s. However, Once have shown that they can win on Brazilian soil when they knocked out Cruzeiro in the last round. Libertad will need another great performance in Paraguay if they are to win. They also have the motivation of a potential Semi against local rivals Cerro Porteno. We are surely in for some intriguing games as all teams will do all they can to ensure progression, but you can’t help but feel it could be beyond Once and Libertad.