Thursday, February 18, 2016

Bolivian tiger is roaring - The Strongest beat São Paulo

One of the many battles in the game between São Paulo and The Strongest.
It couldn't be better than to have the Copa Libertadores back to start the month of February. An early evening game over in São Paulo makes it possible to watch, even for Europeans that like their sleep. But let's face it, you can still sleep when you're dead.

Before you're dead, you had to watch São Paulo against The Strongest though. 

The game did not start off too bright and was very hectic in the opening stages. Surprisingly, The Strongest caught their opponents on the back-foot during the first few minutes. Rodrigo Ramallo's shot inside the first 5 minutes hit the post and silenced the Morumbi for a short time. 

Over and over, the Brazilian's back line could only stop the surging runs with illegal means leading to yellow cards for Kardec and Caio early on. About 20 minutes in, São Paulo finally gained control on their home ground and the game immediately improved in its attractiveness. 

In fairness, the only team that had real chances now was the home one. A ton of them after a corner produced a lot of confusion inside the Bolivian penalty area, a good shot from Mendes that was just saved and a Ganso attempt right after, just to name a few. Goalkeeper Daniel Vaca made some nice saves, but disappointly had the lowest point of the first half as well. The 37-year old walked into the shoulder of Ganso during a set piece and threw himself to the pitch like he was hit with lightning. No need for playacting, my man!

São Paulo made a smart substitution to start the second half, bringing on Jonathan Calleri, who for some odd reason started this game on the bench. Hudson made way for the Argentine striker. A quest for the - likely decisive - goal had begun again.

This time around, the Brazilians, that already played in the first round of the Libertadores this season, went on the front foot right away, yet failed to create any clear cut chances. An hour into the game, Edgardo Bauza's team had to find new ways to break down a decent Bolivian defense. 

What had to happen happened. When you don't score on one side, you often concede on the other. The Strongest worked a corner perfectly with some nice passing play and found the head of Matías Alonso. The Uruguayan (brother of River's Iván Alonso) made no mistake and gave the visitors a shocking 0-1 lead. Considering the Bolivian's home strength up in the mountains of La Paz, any away point can be counted as huge success towards a possible round of 16 participation. Additionally, their recent away record is absolutely dreadful and packed with losses.

15 minutes from the end, the outstanding performance at the back continued, giving the three-time Copa Libertadores winner absolutely nothing in their own stadium. São Paulo tried their luck from distance, but even from there they did not come much closer anymore. Meanwhile, The Strongest did all they could to waste as much time as possible. An approach, that proved successful at the end, because substitute Kieza wasted the last chance for the Brazilians, wide open in front of the goal, but slotting the ball wide.

The Strongest have come up with a huge upset during the first matchweek and beaten towering favourites São Paulo away by a goal to nil. Congratulations to Bolivia on this fantastic showing!


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