Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Peñarol go out with a bang, Huracán advance

Group 4 had its final games take place in the Copa Libertadores last night. While most decisions had been made already, the fans got to see some attractive games across the continent.

Luís Aguiar. (Photo:
Peñarol had not managed to win a single game yet going into last night's meeting with Sporting Cristal. For 45 minutes, it did not seem like they would today either. Down 1-3 going into the break, the Uruguayans had a massive task ahead of them. They ended up mastering it beautifully. 

Alberto Rodríguez, Cristal's centre-back, gave the visitors an 18th minute lead through a header from Carlos Lobatón's corner. As if that was not enough goalscoring for a defender, he added another one just six minutes later. After another corner, this time from the left, confusion broke out in Peñarol's area. The ball was not cleared and Rodríguez was there to pick up the pieces and smash it home.

It took the hosts a little while to get the game back under control. Once they did, they made it count right away. Luís Aguiar's shot (30') was fantastic and left Diego Penny in Cristal's goal no chance to make a save. In their brandnew stadium, they were back in the game, at least for seven minutes. That was how long it took the Peruvians to add a third goal. Gabriel Costa's through ball found the run of Irven Ávila and the striker left no doubts by scoring his seventh career goal in the Copa Libertadores. Down 1-3 at home and staring into the face of a complete disaster, Peñarol's coach Pablo Bengoechea ended up making three game-changing substitutions throughout the second half.

Cristian Palacios, Nicolás Albarracín and Hernán Novick entered the pitch up until the 69th minute. By now, Uruguay's Apertura winner had come up with increasing pressure onto Penny's goal and finally made it count in quick succession. Who else but Hernán Novick would score two goals right after coming on. Firstly, goalkeeper Penny could not handle a Palacios shot, deflecting it right in front of Novick's feet and the midfielder only had to slot it home (72'). Tied game after 81 minutes: Palacios' run created a lot of space for Novick in the middle again and he used his colleague's assist with a great finish to the far post. 

At the end of the night, Peñarol even took all three points away from Sporting Cristal who so desperately needed them to try and advance to the round of 16. A long ball to the right side found the run of Novick and he crossed it right into the danger zone. Palacios got to the ball and was beaten by a great reaction from Penny, but there was only so much the goalkeeper could do. Third super-sub Albarracín was first to get on the rebound and finished the game off by scoring the fourth and last goal to give his team a spectacular 4-3 victory. 

Peñarol won their final Libertadores game for some time deservedly. While they were out before, this win puts them ahead of Sporting Cristal, with 5 points. The Peruvians, with 4, join their Uruguayan opponents on the tv screen ahead of the round of 16.

Lots of battles, but no goals between Atlético Nacional and Huracán. (Photo: Conmebol)
As lucky as Atlético Nacional were to win all three points the last time around against Sporting Cristal, last night was an unlucky one for the comfortable group winners. Against Huracán, the Colombians dominated from start to finish, not allowing a single shot on goal against. Still, it was only enough for a 0-0 draw on the night.

Especially towards the end of the game, the hosts created a lot of pressure on their Argentine visitors. The chances were there for Atlético Nacional: Farid Díaz' shot from distance that hit the crossbar, Víctor Ibarbo's header wide, another Díaz attempt that sneaked past the far post. After a long cross, El Globo defender Federico Mancinelli even came close to scoring an own goal, but Marcos Díaz saved his side from further problems with a great reaction. 

It was just not meant to be for the Colombians today, who finished the group with 16 from a possible 18 points. In particular left-back Farid Díaz had an outstanding game and was present in nearly every highlight of the night. Atlético Nacional are ready for whoever they might face in the round of 16. Huracán needed a point to go through and they got it as well. The Argentines will need a lot of improvements though before thinking about beating a group winner which they will face.


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