Thursday, April 23, 2015

Two were stronger – The Strongest crash out of Copa

Wednesday in Porto Alegre, Brazil: It was 1 versus 2 in group 4. Internacional hosted one of Bolivia’s iconic teams, The Strongest. Both teams hoped they could celebrate together after the match, but for that they would most likely need help from La U (Universidad de Chile), who faced third place team CS Emelec.
The game started off quite lively, both teams tried to get up the field as fast as possible, as each of them still had a lot to play for. The first huge chance fell to Brazilian striker Nilmar in the 22nd minute, he put a nice cross from the right wide of the net. On a sidenote, it was nice to see former Bundesliga player Andres D’Alessandro back in action in the red and white of Internacional. The Brazilians kept circulating the ball well, gaining some chances from corners and freekicks near the penalty area, but nothing came really close. The Strongest did their job so far, keeping it a scoreless draw, but it is tough to rely on that and the parallel game remaining 0-0 as well.
And as if you guessed it, after 40 minutes the inevitable happened and it was only fair after how the game went so far. Internacional took the 1-0 lead through a goal by Valdivia (who only came on in the 19th minute), after another cross from the right side by Eduardo Sasha. And from bad to worse for The Strongest: seconds later, CS Emelec take a 1-0 lead over La U themselves, pushing the Bolivians out of a round of 16 spot by halftime. Would they be able to turn it around?
The real question is will we survive 15 minutes of the same in-arena picture at halftime? The stadium is nice though, World Cup memories. Why you wonder? It saw the greatest goalkeeper game ever played at a WC, when Manuel Neuer basically beat Algeria all by himself in the round of 16.
Talking of round of 16’s, that’s what it was about tonight between Internacional vs The Strongest, with the stage hopefully set for an exciting second half as we got back underway. A couple of minutes in, Valdivia had the first chance for the hosts, but put it over the crossbar. The Strongest came right back at them and had their first real chance of the match after a shot from Rodrigo Ramallo, and in general looked more active than in the first 45 minutes. Escobar’s dive for a penalty was not good enough for either the visitors or ref though.
Finally having a football game now, the Bolivians just kept going, after d’Alessandro lost the ball on the edge of his own area, it was up to goalkeeper Alisson to provide a big save to keep his team in the lead. While I’m still writing this, Internacional had their next big chance on the other side, as today’s super sub Valdivia shot the ball just wide. Crazy guy in the background screams about a goal somewhere, and sure enough Emelec have made it 2-0 in Guayaquil. Bottom line: The Strongest have to score two right now.
Just the time to accomplish that was slowly but surely running out. Yet it is not like there was not any chance for the away team. D’Alessandro with (another) awful loss of the ball right at his own area, but for the second time their opponents could not capitalize. Not everything the Argentinian captain from Internacional did was a risk though. After a fantastic run from Nilmar which earned the hosts a freekick on the edge of the box, Andres D’Alessandro shot the set piece narrowly over the crossbar. Substitute Cuesta had the biggest chance to tie things up in the last minute, but from 5 meters out wide open in front of the goal, he did not manage to score a goal.
Porto Alegre did not end up seeing a miracle. The Strongest go out after a performance that was simply not strong enough. Internacional did just enough to come away with a 1-0 and the group win. The Ecuadorians from CS Emelec held their 2-0 at home and move on to the next round as the only team from the small country.
Notes around the Copa Libertadores:
Huracán out – The Argentinians surprisingly did not stand a chance on their visit to the already eliminated Mineros de Guyana, losing 3-0. The Venezuelans celebrate their first win of the group stages and catapult Bolivia’s Universitario Sucre into the knockout stages despite their 2-0 loss away to Cruzeiro, who ended up winning this group.
Estudiantes advance – One of the other Argentinian clubs in trouble did a better job, and after beating last place team Barcelona SC 2-0, they find themselves in the round of 16. The same goes for the group winners, Atlético Nacional. The Colombians left no doubts as they trashed Libertad 4-0.

San Lorenzo out – The holders have lost their last game which was a must win in order to have any sort of chance of making it to the next round. Danubio, who were held without a point until this point, came to Argentina and beat the favorite 0-1. At the end of the day, it would not have mattered anyway due to São Paulo FC’s 2-0 win over Corinthians, which saved them second place behind yesterday’s opponent.

Santa Fe win group 1 – The Colombians top their group after a 3-1 home victory over Atlas Guadalajara, who finish last. In the battle for second place, Atlético Mineiro got what they needed against Colo-Colo with a 2-0 win. Rafael Carioca scored the decisive second goal in the 80th minute of the match.


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