Monday, April 11, 2016

Nacional celebrate big win over Defensor Sporting

Following their early qualification for the Copa Libertadores round of 16, Nacional returned to league action in Uruguay's Primera División. Despite showing some unusual and slight weaknesses, they deservedly beat Defensor Sporting at the Estadio Luiz Franzini 4-2.

Coach Gustavo Munúa made no changes after Thursday's 2-2 draw against River Plate in the continental competition. What worked then should end up working today as well. The crowd was extremely disappointing and 600 away fans were the main crowd on the night.

First Half

Two tries, one goal: Nico López and the penalties. (Photo: Nacional)
Uruguay's champion dominated quickly and was the much better team throughout the first 15 minutes. Inside just over a minute, they earned a penalty after a clear handball from a Defensor defender. Nico López stepped up but saw his attempt saved by Irrazábal. Nacional were not irritated and scored after 11 minutes through Kevin Ramírez. The left winger quickly added his second goal to his Nacional spell after scoring for the first time in midweek. He produced a lovely placed shot from just outside the area into the bottom left corner. This time, Irrazábal stood no chance. 

As time went on, things got a little more even. This translated to the scoresheet surprisingly quickly thanks to Defensor's captain Nico Olivera. His dropkick was beautiful and deservedly found the back of the net. But it was the champion that had failed to deal with a simple long throw-in in the buildup.

Nacional were struggling to find their usually strong wing game today. Aside from Ramírez' goal, both him and especially Tabó were hanging in the air and experienced tight marking from Defensor's defense. This often led to Léo Gamalho and Nico López dropping deeper and to the sides to get balls. Eventually, they would end up missing in the middle to put a finish to their own crosses. 

Nevertheless, the visitors did not allow much defensively at least. After 36 minutes, Nico López received his second chance to score from a penalty and this time he did a better job, even though Irrazábal had the right corner yet again. Nacional would take the lead, but even added a third one to their nightly resume. It was their best strike of the night, as Felipe Carballo fired home a wonderful shot to underline his decent form in recent weeks. 1-3 for Munúa's team was how we went to halftime.

Second Half

The second half started like the first one ended. Nacional was the better team in pretty much every category and had the only chances early on. Nico López hit the side netting, Gamalho had his header comfortably saved.

In the 65th minute, the game turned into quite a memorable one when Nacional were awarded their third penalty in the same match. This time, it was no handball, but a foul on big striker Léo Gamalho. The Brazilian stepped to the spot himself this time and had no trouble converting for a 4-1 lead.

A game that was basically put to bed due to the fourth goal turned a little flat. Both coaches introduced some fresh blood to shake things loose and mainly hand out some playing time. Bringing on Eguren for Colo Romero underlines aforementioned ambitions. In the meantime, the game had reached its final quarter of an hour without too much further action.

After 82 minutes, the hosts suddenly showed up in front of goal again. A corner was not dealt well with by Nacional and Héctor Acuña was all alone in the middle. He was probably surprised by all the space himself, but had no trouble heading it in to make it 2-4.

That is how it stayed until the end, but only because Conde made a big save in added time. The ball hit Espino's arm in the air, so the referee pointed to the spot for a fourth (!!) time. Olivera tried to get his second goal, but was denied magnificently by Conde diving to his right. 


Compared to their first half performance, Nacional did much better offensively on the wings as well during the second. It still remains an area that did not live up to expectation today, but Defensor did not force it to in the first place. Both strikers scored, so it was a good day in the office, even if it was via penalty twice.

Esteban Conde and his defenders barely had anything to do, still conceded twice and celebrate a deserved 4-2 victory over a very weak opponent. Nacional go second in Uruguay's Clausura, one point behind Plaza Colonia.

Simply because of four penalties, it was a very remarkable game that also saw six goals.


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