Thursday, April 14, 2016

Boca take over group lead, River struggles continue

Aside from Grêmio's triumph over LDU Quito, there were five more games in the Copa Libertadores last night. Here is a summary of all of them. 

Nico Lodeiro after his late goal. (Photo: Conmebol)
Boca Juniors visited Racing Club in an all-Argentine duel. In front of Racing supporters who were in fine voice, a relatively even game developed. Both teams did not threaten their opponent's goal too much during the first half. Boca's best chance came through Carlos Tévez' shot into the side netting, while Racing had a penalty shout turned down by the referee Carlos Vera from Ecuador. First, Gustavo Bou was fouled by Pablo Pérez inside the area, only for the Boca man to handle the ball right after. The visitors were extremely lucky in this scene. 

As we went tied into the second half, Boca was the slightly better team and had further chances through Frank Fabra. The 25-year old Colombian played a fine game on the left side and advanced forward dangerously on multiple occasions, including an offside goal. Racing seemed to have accepted their point and did not commit too many men forward anymore. A mistake, as it turned out.

Fernando Gago played the ball out to the right side, finding the run of Cristian Pavón. His speedy cross was deflected on by Pablo Pérez' heel and found the foot of Nicolás Lodeiro. The Uruguayan midfielder could not miss from centimetres in front of the goalline and handed his team the victory after 84 minutes. 

Boca Juniors now lead Group 3 with 9 points, ahead of Racing's 8. Bolívar (4) follows and basically plays a must-win game against Deportivo Cali (2) tonight.

Man of the match again: Jonathan Calleri. (Photo: Conmebol)
River Plate's struggles seemed to have found an end after a 6-0 victory over The Strongest last week, but two games later, it is all the same. Following a disappointing late 2-2 draw against Sarmiento in the league, the Copa Libertadores holders were beaten 2-1 by São Paulo FC.

Of all people, it was former Boca striker Jonathan Calleri scoring twice to beat River on the night. Calleri's first strike came after 29 minutes, working the ball into the back of the net with his right foot. Ganso's cross had found the big striker inside the area and some fortuitous bounces later São Paulo took a 1-0 lead.

Particularly the first half had been home team territory, whereas River came out better for the second 45 and had chances through Lucas Alario and Rodrigo Mora. Things changed to the worse again shortly after. Calleri was there to head in a freekick cross from Michel Bastos to give São Paulo the two goal lead (60'). From worse to disaster? Leonel Vangioni was sent off just four minutes after the second goal. When things got heated after a D'Alessandro foul, Vangioni slapped Calleri in the face and will rightfully be suspended for it.

Surprisingly, the game got close again towards the end, mainly thanks to substitute Iván Alonso. The former Nacional striker converted from a mess inside São Paulo's area. River could, sadly for them, not manage to get anything more tonight. One more scene of note: João Schmidt got himself sent off for the hosts for his second yellow card.

River still lead the group, but just on goal difference. Both them and São Paulo have 8 points and lead The Strongest by 1. Trujillanos (4) are last and eliminated. 

Elsewhere in the Copa Libertadores

Two late goals against cost Cerro Porteño a better position in Group 8. The Paraguayans lost 2-0 away to Cobresal. Chile's club celebrated the first points of their Libertadores campaign. Lino Maldonado (86') and Patricio Jérez (90') scored the goals. In round 6, Cerro Porteño will have a showdown against Santa Fe for a spot in the round of 16. Corinthians are through.

Group 7 was decided beforehand but saw its last matchday yesterday. Olimpia might have been eliminated, but it did not stop them from trashing second place Deportivo Táchira 4-0. Claudio Vargas (18') and Iván Torres (40') scored in the first half, Freddy Bareiro (61') and Gustavo Mencia (63') added two more in the second.

Pumas UNAM finished the group stages with their fifth win in six games. They beat CS Emelec away in Ecuador 2-3. Fidel Martínez scored twice (12', 61'), Luis Enrique Quiñónez added a third one for the Mexicans. Emelec came close again two times through set pieces: Holger Matamoros' direct freekick made it 1-2 (45'), while Cristian Guanca's penalty made for exciting final minutes.


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