Thursday, April 21, 2016

Cerro Porteño catch Santa Fe on finish line

Cerro Porteño have caught Santa Fe on the finish line to the round of 16 the past evening. In the last round of Group 8, Paraguay's champion of early 2015 beat the Colombians by a score of 1-0.

Goalscorer Alonso (#4) celebrates with his teammates. (Photo: Conmebol)
All Santa Fe needed in the legendary Estadio Defensores del Chaco was a draw, but they ended up making it impossible for themselves as bad discipline killed any chance of the current Copa Sudamericana champion. 

The game started off with a first chance for Cerro Porteño, when Junior Alonso fired a shot that was parried away for a corner by opposing goalkeeper Robinson Zapata. Not long after, Santa Fe went down to ten men only 20 minutes into the game. Leyvin Balanta had come up with his second clear yellow card and could not complain about the referee's decision. It was hardly a mean to help his away team reach their needed result in Asunción. 

Unsurprisingly, it was punished soon after by an aggressive, but disciplined enough Paraguayan side. Sadly for Santa Fe, bad came to worse and goalkeeper Zapata made an awful error, basically directing a cross from Junior Alonso into his own net. While Cerro had attacked well on the left wing, the end result left the visitors down disappointed. 1-0 after 34 minutes.

Finally, towards the end of the first half, the 10 Colombians tried to get on the offense a little. Now they needed a goal and Cristian Borja's cross found the foot of Baldomero Perlaza in the middle. The attempt of the young midfielder was saved comfortably though by Antony Silva. Going to halftime, it was Santa Fe that had it all to do in the next 45 minutes.

That was exactly what they tried coming out of the dressing rooms. Coach Gerardo Pelusso made a change that saw striker William Palacio come onto the pitch in the team's hopes to produce more danger up front. Through Luis Sejias, the guests collected their first shot of the second half, but he slipped during his attempt and had it go wide all the time. Shots from distance was a theme now, because both teams failed to get into the last third decisively and accordingly bemoaned a lack of quality scoring opportunities. 

At least until Luís Leal got by a defender with a decent move and fired a shot right at Zapata, who cleared it into the middle. Jonathan Santana had an empty Colombian net and put the chance wide. I cannot tell you how he did it. After an hour, Santa Fe hit the self destruction button for the second time tonight. Yerry Mina produced an incredibly dumb elbow to the head on Cerro's Guillermo Beltrán on the way to the corner flag. 

Despite their lackluster discipline, 9-men Santa Fe had two more huge chances to equalize in the game, firstly through Sergio Otalvaro. The right full-back had made his way down the pitch and suddenly was played through by his teammate and found himself all alone in front of Silva. Instead of shooting, he cut into the middle towards two defenders that made their way back until then. In the end, captain Carlos Bonet cleared the danger admirably. 

A second opportunity came from substitute William Palacio's head after a dangerous freekick had exposed Cerro Porteño's defense yet again. Antony Silva reacted quickly to clear the danger yet again. Logically, the home team received a lot of room to counter as the Colombians threw everything forward towards the end. Big chances from Jorge Rojas and Beltrán went begging though. It did not matter anymore, as the referee blew his full-time whistly without any further scary moment for the Paraguayans. 

Cerro Porteño win 1-0 and therefore advance to the round of 16 along with Corinthians, while Santa Fe have to watch the games from home. A little disappointing campaign for the Sudamericana holders that were surely hoping for more out of this relatively doable group.

Ángel Romero scored twice for Corinthians. (Photo: Conmebol)
Corinthians themselves ended the group stages with a fun outing against Cobresal. The poor Chileans got smacked 6-0 in São Paulo. 

Six goals were a little much to handle for Cobresal, who only celebrated their first three points a week ago against Cerro Porteño. Chile's champion was not even bad, but the Brazilian group winners just brutally effective. 

It did not take Corinthians long to build a two-goal lead on the night. Marlone made it 1-0 after just nine minutes with a powerful (and free) header following a corner, Ángel Romero struck four minutes later with a fantastic solo run, making countless defenders look silly in the process. 

In the stages after the two goals, Cobresal had quite a few chances to get back in the game, but were either denied by goalkeeper Cássio or could simply not finish themselves. Instead, after 39 minutes, it was Corinthians who struck for the third time, an absolutely amazing side volley from Marlone that you need to see below. Right on the stroke of halftime, Guilherme Arana's shot from distance added a fourth Brazilian goal to the mix.

The second half was relatively even until Corinthians decided to score another two in quick succession. Lovely team buildup and an even better finish into the near side high corner from Elías (75') made it 5-0, before Ángel Romero scored his second of the night (77') through converting a speedy low cross from the right.

Obviously, the Brazilians deserved their win last night and the fans got to see an exciting game with chances on both ends. Corinthians were dominating in chance usage.


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