Thursday, March 10, 2016

9 men Nacional win in Brazil - Palmeiras fire coach

Nacional have pulled off a Copa Libertadores away win in dramatic fashion. After being decimated to nine men by the fulltime whistle, the Uruguayans still managed to beat Palmeiras 1-2.

The first started with a bit of a scare, when two Nacional players collided. Kevin Ramírez had to be stretchered off, but eventually made his return shortly after. Palmeiras controlled the opening stages of the match, having their first chance after eight minutes, when a freekick from way out was deflected dangerously towards the bottom left post, but Esteban Conde was up to the task. 

Brazil's cup winner continued on the front foot and created some more opportunities offensively, while the visitors searched their luck countering. Palmeiras had their best chance whistled down for offside, while Nico López had nearly scored the goal of the season by backheeling it into the net. Fernando Prass' post had something against it.

Nico López scores yet again.
A minute later, the young Uruguayan striker was more successful. Fucile's low cross from the right was deflected right into the middle and López stood where a striker needs to stand. He went around the goalkeeper and slotted it into the empty net. 1-0 for Nacional after 36 minutes. They made it 2 two minutes later. Leandro Barcia exposed Palmeiras' failing offside trap after a brilliant high through ball from Gonzalo Porras. Barcia's finish was as cool as they come, into the bottom right corner, not leaving Prass any sort of chance. 

The problems for the Uruguayan champion started when they were suddenly down to 10 men. Jorge Fucile received his second yellow card in the 43rd minute. Referee Osses from Chile had lost control of this one and answered with yellow cards in the wrong situations, a problem that should continue in the second half. Palmeiras did not wait long to use their numerical advantage in the Allianz Parque. In added time of the first half, the talented Gabriel scored a goal that looked pretty similar to the one López scored on the other side, only having to push the ball over the line after beating Conde.

Theme of the second half had to inevitably be Nacional withstanding the attacks of Palmeiras for 45 more minutes. Despite the Brazilian's best efforts, they did just that. It was particularly remarkable to see this performance in the Copa Libertadores, as they struggled to show defensive stability in several league games already this season. In the absence of injured captain Diego Polenta, Sebastián Eguren was counted upon in a centre-back role and he delivered a fine performance. 

Palmeiras' biggest opportunity to equalize fell to defender Vitor Hugo. He was wide open on the edge of the 6-yard box and could not direct his header on target. For having the man advantage, it was quite uninspired what Marcelo Oliveira's squad produced. While they did manage to combine themselves into the final third of the pitch, also mainly thanks to Nacional's approach, the final pass was way off far too often. Shots from distance could not really threaten Conde either. 

Another red: This time it hit Leo Gamalho. (All photos:
Instead, things got quite heated and nasty at times, with fouls that do not really belong onto the field. Relatively surprising that it took until the last minute for the match to have its second red card. Nacional's late substitute Leo Gamalho got himself sent off in his second appearance for his new club. Admittedly, it was a wrong decision by the referee yet again.

Nevertheless, Nacional have come away with an unlikely victory from Brazil, which should make up for points that were being lost in unlucky fashion in their previous two outings. The Uruguayans lead Group 2 with 5 points, one ahead of Rosario Central and Palmeiras. River Plate have 2. After the game, Palmeiras announced they have fired their coach Oliveira, before the Brazilian Serie A season has even begun.


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