Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Huracán cruz(eiro)-ing to victory – Ábila shines

Tuesday night saw the meeting of two teams still fighting for a place in the next round and especially third place Huracán was under a lot of pressure, after only collecting four points in as many games. Opponents Cruzeiro from Belo Horizonte meanwhile were going into the game as group leaders with 8 points.

Nothing much happened in the opening stages and you might as well have went back to the fridge to get a fresh beer and some snacks. The great home fans in Argentina’s capital would easily guide you there and back. But you better did it fast. Out of nowhere, big striker Ramon Ábila opens the scoring with a cool finish. He was all alone in front of the opposing goalkeeper Fabio, after Huracán won a couple of decisive midfield battles for the ball and a long ball was played over the last line of Cruzeiro’s defense. It is a shame because it should not have counted due to Ábila being offside by about half a meter.

Back to the fridge then? No, let us enjoy this game for a while. What answer would Cruzeiro have? No instant one at least, instead Huracán nearly made it two, but goalscorer Ábila shot it wide from a difficult angle. And it continued, all the Argentinians now. A fantastic pass back into the center of the penalty area from Pablo Bruna and Ábila is there again: 2-0 after 26 minutes. A really outstanding game from the striker this far.

Cruzeiro look strangely tame, still unable to produce any quality attacks, not even mentioning chances, probably just hoping to get to halftime anytime soon. I am glad I did not go back to the fridge. The game got a lot better, at least from the host’s side. Ábila, yet again, nearly adds a third goal with a half volley that flies narrowly over the crossbar. And wow, it just happened, a shot from Cruzeiro! It did go wide by quite some margin, but shot is shot, right? They did make it to halftime after all, and in the parallel game, Universitario Sucre took the lead right before halftime as well, to put themselves in first in the live table. You did not see that coming, did you? If you did, you deserve another beer from the fridge. Sorry for making you an alcoholic. Still better than tennis commercials at halftime?


But good news, everyone survived the 15 minutes like a champ, and maybe even Cruzeiro was more ready for this game now. Or not, Mister Everywhere, Ramon Ábila in the center of things again, test Fabio with an overhead kick, which is comfortably saved. In the 58th minute, Huracán had something happen to them they would have rather gone without. Eduardo Dominguez brought down the Brazilian star striker Leandro Damiao inside the area, and the penalty was stupid but inevitable. The fouled player himself cut the lead in half with a shot straight down the middle. 2-1 out of the absolute nowhere.

Federico Mancinelli would not have any of that. A lob pass beat the whole Brazilian defense yet again, and the rightback headed it home from close range. Two minutes after the penalty goal, Huracán retook their two goal lead. Furthermore, it sparked the fans to get louder again as the optimism for a home victory grew. Long time no Ábila? Don’t worry, here he came with his next chance, a wide open header right in front of the goal, but he could not direct it on target.

The score remained 3-1. It was a very impressive game from the hosts, who left no doubt about who was going to leave the pitch as winner tonight at any time. Cruzeiro disappointed and missed out on the chance of advancing to the knockout stages already. Instead they have to worry about Sucre, who added a second goal to beat Mineros 2-0, and now lead group 3 with 9 points, one ahead of Cruzeiro, who themselves have a one point gap to Huracán. But the Argentinians have excellent chances to advance, as they will meet the already eliminated Mineros de Guyana in the final group match. The top two teams will face each other in Belo Horizonte.


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