Friday, August 28, 2015

Santa Fe celebrate lucky win over 9 men Nacional

Thursday evening in Montevideo: Nacional versus Santa Fe, probably the best matchup of the second round, kicked off with its first leg. Due to their home advantage I would have named the Uruguayans favorites today. The lineups were as follows.

Nacional: Conde - Eroza, Malvino, Polenta, Espino - Porras, Romero - Barcia, González, De Pena - Alonso.

Santa Fe: Castellanos – Otalvaro, Mina, Meza, Cummings – Anchio, Roa, Salazar, Seijas – Morelo, Angulo.

In particular striker Wilson Morelo, who scored a hattrick for Santa Fe in the previous round, needed to be contained by the host’s defense. To be fair, Nacional were on a high themselves going into this match, after their last minute league victory over River Plate. Maybe Santiago Romero would be the hero again today?

Finally the wait was over and the match kicked off in a very atmospheric Gran Parque Central. And just as it started, it might have been decided already. Diego Polenta stomped on an attackers leg right after fouling him and therewith brought Nacional down to 10 men only three minutes in. Coach Munúa sacrificed offensive midfielder Nacho González and brought on Gorga to complete the back four again. Let’s see to what extent the Colombians could use the nearly full distance man advantage.

The game itself developed into a pretty hectic one in the opening stages, probably understandably so after the early events. Many little mistakes, too long balls, simply misplaced passes and the like. Nacional still enjoyed a good amount of possession and actually had the first big chance of the match a quarter of an hour in. De Pena headed a freekick towards the bottom right corner, but Castellanos got there in time to make the save.


Best player on the pitch in the first half: Carlos De Pena.

Nacional really started to take control in the following minutes, dominated across the wings, in particular De Pena, who convinced with his runs and technical excellence. The next cross from the right found the Iván Alonso in the middle of the penalty area, but his looping header went over the crossbar. In the meantime, the guests did not find a way into this tie. Instead, leftback Cummings himself got in danger of a second yellow card after half an hour. He had quite some difficulties defending the Uruguayan attacks down his side. His coach apparently saw the same and took him off after 33 minutes, which was likely a smart decision considering the way he looked. Did the new guy do it better? Nah. It took Villarraga two minutes to go into the referee’s book himself after bringing down Barcia like Cummings did multiple times.

A few minutes before halftime, the whole affair escalated fully. The referee sent off two more players after a bit of pushing and shoving, one from each team, Anchio and captain Alonso. Yellow cards might have done, but seemingly not tonight. By halftime we had 6 yellow and 3 red cards. 9 vs. 10 in the first half, pure entertainment. Oh yeah, the match itself was alright too. Nacional impressed despite being a man short and completely dominated their Colombian guests, who showed less than nothing and will be disappointed after 45 minutes.

After a quarter of an hour to calm down everyone’s nerves, we were back at it with the second half. My guess would be that we see at least one more sending off. Oh, and a goal maybe since it was not like the room got any less for the players that were left. Even though Santa Fe appeared more willing to get something done offensively, the Uruguayan champions’ defense continued to look marvelous and did not give away anything. On the other side, Nacional had the first big chance of the second half again through a counter attack, Espino’s nice sprint and pass into the run of Barcia, but the right wing’s shot was blocked by a sliding tackle.

An hour into the game, Santa Fe had their first real chance, but no shot on goal because of a nice interception from Porras, at least they showed up a little more in dangerous areas now, proving that defending with 9 men is not always an easy task. Right away it paid off then, pretty undeserving at this point: One long pass was enough to get by the whole defense and it of course it found Wilson Morelo. After being around goalkeeper Conde, he only had to tap it into the empty net, 0-1.

It was a difficult question for the hosts at this point 20 minutes from the end: How much offense is justifiable being down a man, but also a goal in their home game? They elected the “a lot” option, had two good chances right after falling down. Why not come from behind in the Sudamericana as well? Santa Fe had something against it and should have made it two themselves, but Angulo backheeled it wide. Luis Seijas did it better and punished Nacional for committing too many players forward with a nice finish off a counter: 0-2.

It just was not meant to be for the hosts despite all battling and fighting. There were few more chances both ways, but it remained a two goal away win in Montevideo. 0-2 is a very disappointing result for Uruguay’s record champion, as they were the better team for large parts of this game, while being a player less since the third minute. Santa Fe were extremely effective and I guess that is how you can do it if you want to be successful. One moment of abstraction and a counter were enough to get a big advantage before going home for the second leg in about three weeks.


Post a Comment