Sunday, April 24, 2016

Nacional beat Fénix in game that should not be

Nacional have beaten Fénix 1-0 at home, but the main story of the night was one happening off the pitch.

Alfonso Espino. (Photo:
Round 9 of Uruguay's Primera División started off under scandalous circumstances. On Fénix arrival to the Gran Parque Central, Montevideo's police detained their coach Rosario Martínez, only to let him go shortly after. For a long amount of time, it was up in the air whether the game would even be played until finally, 75 minutes later, the referee could let the two teams start. Of course, footballers always want to play, but it was probably not the greatest decision. Nacional warmed up three times, while Fénix clearly had other things on their mind.

First half

Accordingly, the opening stages of the game were awful. No team could gain much control and was struggling in their passing game. Second might have played against unbeaten third, but for the most part the ball was passed around badly in midfield. It was Fénix who got the first big chance of the night. After 27 minutes, they were awarded an awful penalty for a dive. It bounced right back against them when Maximiliano Pérez stepped up and fired it five metres over the crossbar. 

It was the scene that clearly got the home team going on the night. Nacional started to dominate half an hour in and created quite a few chances doing so. Especially Nico López up front was the dangerman and a thorn in Fénix' back line with his quick movement and intelligent passes. The most dangerous shots went to López' account as well, but he struck them just wide. 

Nacional did not use their speed advantage on the wings, especially on Leandro Barcia's, enough and therefore struggled to consistently threaten their opponent. That opponent weakened themself significantly at the end of the first half though. Lucas Cavallini, after being booked before, handled a ball on the half-way line and was rightly sent off for his second yellow. Fénix had a hard task ahead of them in the second 45 minutes.

Second half

That second half started off with what turned out to be the winning goal. A corner from the right side reached Nico López on the edge of the area. The striker backheeled the ball beautifully right into the run of advancing left-back Alfonso Espino. The 24-year old struck the ball perfectly and fired it into the bottom right corner. Goalkeeper Darío Denis had no chance whatsoever. 

Almost instantly, Nacional could have doubled their lead but was not able to do so. They still had full control of the game and would not allow Fénix into any dangerous areas all second half. While not getting a decisive second goal, Espino's strike turned out to be enough against previously unbeaten Fénix. 


Post-game celebrations. (Photo:
It was a very deserved win for Nacional under difficult circumstances. Fénix was clearly not 100% up for the match, showing that during their disastrous missed penalty, Cavallini's red card and coach Martínez not making a single substitution despite his team's misfortunes. 

Diego Polenta was not pleased ahead of the game due to the uncertainty, but managed to play a great game, being Nacional's anchor at the back as he is so often. Sadly for his team, he picked up his fifth yellow card in the first half and will miss the away game against Sud América. 

Fénix suffered their first loss of the season and suddenly have a gap between themselves and the top. Plaza Colonia is four points away, Nacional three and Peñarol could still follow tonight. Admittedly, their situation likely did not allow them anything better this Saturday and hopefully resolves until next weekend.


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