Friday, March 18, 2016

Nacional beat Palmeiras again - Copa Libertadores

Thanks to a goal from Nicolás López, Nacional have overcome their Palmeiras challenge for the second time in a week. This time around, they were victorious at their very own Gran Parque Central, beating the Brazilian side 1-0.
Gran Parque Central ahead of the Copa Libertadores game.
It was an allround great night in Montevideo in the sold out iconic ground. The magnificent atmosphere that started with a great reception of the team would not stop, as Nacional performed very well once again. After having a break in their domestic league, they could enter last night's game with a lot of rest and it showed early on. Palmeiras' were outplayed in the first half and did not collect a single shot. 

Nacional's pressing was excellent, they played with a lot of pace, just lacked a little precision in their finishing. Veteran striker Sebastián Fernández probably had the best chance for the Uruguayans after half an hour, but he saw his shot go just wide to the right of Fernando Prass' goal. 

The home team deserved a lot better than a 0-0 by halftime. Goalkeeper Esteban Conde was wondering why he was even standing in the goal tonight.
Goal! Nico López has scored yet again. (All photos:
While Palmeiras was a little better to start the second 45 minutes, it was Nacional who deservingly took the lead. Seba Fernández started the move and laid it out to Kevin Ramírez' left side. The young winger crossed it deep and found the head of Nico López who managed to just stay onside. His header hit the goalie's arm, but there was no way Prass was keeping it out. 1-0 and Nacional could finally play with the lead behind them after 50 minutes.

El Decano could focus on keeping the ball out of their own net more now, but Palmeiras lacked any sort of creativity, despite controlling possession in midfield. Too many misplaced passes and lost balls up front made it easy for the hosts to get through the second half. 

As the minutes ticked down and substitutes Gabriel Jesus and Lucas Barrios could not get it done either, Nacional came away with very important three points, which keep them atop of Group 2 in the Copa Libertadores. With 8 points, they are very close to advancing to the round of 16 in the competition. On April 7, they travel to their Uruguayan counterparts River Plate and can reach the next round. 

Especially the goalscoring touch of Nico López was the significant factor once again. After he scored a week ago in the return leg in Brazil as well, the highly talented striker decided yet another game with his goal. It was López' third Libertadores goal in four games. Take a look at last night's headed goal:

Midfielder Felipe Carballo, who filled in for last night's right-back Colo Romero (Fucile was suspended), did tremendously well and should be rewarded with further inclusions into Nacional's XI. He had a lot of help from his tireless teammates, especially the constant runs from Ramírez, Fernández and Barcia which exploited Palmeiras' back line. 

Rosario Central are second in Group 2 with 7 points, one behind Nacional. They are the favourites to go through at this moment, followed by Palmeiras with 4 and Uruguay's River Plate with 2 points.

Post-match celebrations from the players and their happy crowd.


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