Friday, May 13, 2016

Nacional and Boca draw in exciting clash

It was a big night for Nacional and Boca Juniors. In Montevideo's iconic Gran Parque Central, Uruguay's champion hosted their Argentine counterparts. Boca went into the game unbeaten in the competition so far, but not really in form either. Nacional had lost one game that did not matter anymore previously. Could it be anything less than a great one?

Gran Parque Central pre-game crowd.

Nacional made no changes from their previous Copa Libertadores game against Corinthians. Nico López was indeed healthy to play after taking a little knock in the league the past weekend. 
On the other side, the visitors made one change from their 3-1 win over Cerro Porteño as regular Gino Peruzzi replaced Cristian Erbes. 

First half

No chance for Carlos Tévez against Mauricio Victorino. (Photo: Ovación)
The first half did not let us wait long with the first opportunity as Mauricio Victorino's header was not dangerous enough two minutes in. Nacional were aggressive in midfield duels from the get-go and decided many 50/50 battles for themselves in that way. Around Boca's area, a lot of set pieces brought the potential for danger, but were not used accordingly.

Nacional's best chance came in the 22nd minute, a shot from Jorge Fucile that sailed towards the inside of the right post, but Orión got over to make the save. About half an hour into the game, Boca tried to implement a little more structure into their attacks instead of hitting long balls and hoping for the best. It did not work amazingly right away either, but after 33 minutes it was Gino Peruzzi collecting Boca's best opportunity with a shot from distance himself. The defender fired it just wide.

In the 38th minute, Nico López' day was over already. Sadly, his injury seemed to have re-aggravated. Coach Gustavo Munúa had to replace the striker with Christian Tabó. Despite the loss of their season's best man, Nacional kept threatening down the wings and produced an opportunity through a Ramírez header shortly before halftime.

Second half

Boca Juniors came out much better for the second 45 minutes than they did when the game started. A lot more possession made them get closer to the final third and push Nacional back a little at the beginning. Halftime substitute Chávez had their best chance as he hit the side netting. On the other side Nacional finally reached the second half with a huge chance after 55 minutes. Following a freekick, they failed to get the ball across the line on multiple occasions through Fernández, Romero and captain Polenta.

A relatively even game developed, with decent looks on both sides, but without the cutting edge chances, Tabó's shot into the side netting was the highlight until minute 70. Right there, the visitors took the lead. After Carlos Tévez held up Fucile in the penalty area, the right-back could not reach the run of Frank Fabra. Fabra's finish was great though and gave Boca the all-important away goal.

Instead of being in shock, Nacional countered not too long after. 76 minutes in, it was Sebastián Fernández using the confusion in Boca's penalty area to his advantage. After a corner from the left side, Ramírez header back could not be cleared and reached Fernández, whose turnaround shot was an absolute bullet and hit the back of the net for the equalizer.

Just two minutes later, Nacional could have won the game as they produced another chance from a corner, but it went just wide of the far post. Chance-wise that was all that happened until the end, where both coaches preferred to take time of the clock with their respective substitutions.


A pretty even game ended with a pretty even result: 1-1 was the fulltime score between Nacional and Boca Juniors. Obviously, the away goal gives an advantage to the Argentines, but Nacional showed they can score goals and get a result away from home in the 2-2 draw with Corinthians that brought them to this stage.

Good tonight: Victorino and Polenta were very convincing throughout the game, making Tévez disappear for the largest part of 90 minutes.

Overall, it was an exciting game to watch, even if there was some chancelessness at times. Definitely worthy of a quarterfinal.


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