Friday, May 20, 2016

Nacional knocked out in dramatic fashion

The dream is over: Nacional have been knocked out on penalties by Boca Juniors in the Bombonera last night. After 90 intense minutes, it had been 1-1 like in the first leg a week ago. 

The captains Cata Díaz and Polenta before the game. (Photo:
Uruguay's champion could count on a lot of away support over in Buenos Aires. Argentina's capital ended up experiencing a fantastic atmosphere from both sets of fans. 


Boca coach Guillermo Schelotto made one change from the first leg a week ago in Montevideo. Andrés Chávez replaced Federico Carrizo in the starting XI.

Gustavo Munúa on the other hand did not have Kevin Ramírez available at all and Nico López unable to start. They were replaced by Felipe Carballo in left midfield and Leo Gamalho up front.

First half

Boca started well, picking up two big opportunities inside the first five minutes and not giving Nacional the chance to calmly settle in. Esteban Conde was called upon to produce a nice save on a shot from the edge of the area and an even bigger one on the rebound attempt from Carlos Tévez. Shortly after, Juan Insaurralde's header went just wide.

That was it for Argentina's double winner for quite a long time though. Finally, Nacional felt comfortable at the back and destroyed most attacks in midfield already. Whatever came through was headed away with poise from Mauricio Victorino or captain Diego Polenta. Their first half chance came through a header from Gamalho, but it was a rather weak one after Jorge Fucile's cross from the right.

20 minutes in, the visitors took the lead. Sebastián Fernández slid the ball out to the right into the run of Leandro Barcia. He produced a speedy cross, meant for Fernández in the middle again. Instead, it was Boca captain Cata Díaz making contact with the ball and deflecting it high into his own net. Nothing better than a lead could have happened to the Uruguayans who could concentrate on defending even more now.

While the game got quite rough in midfield in the following stages, chances stayed absent for a pretty large time. Only after 35 minutes, Chávez was suddenly wide open at the back post and headed Pavón's cross wide poorly. Right at the brink of halftime, Boca could have scored again, but Conde managed to deny Pavón after he received a lovely assist from Tévez.

Second half

The second 45 minutes started less frantically than the previous. Slowly but surely, Boca was the only team to get anything done offensively though, clearly aided by the fact that Nacional did not have to. Pablo Pérez collected three shots by himself until the hour mark, most from distance and either wide or saved relatively comfortably. Nacional on the other hand got opportunities through counters, just could not find the deadly final pass. Often, Fernández was all alone up front with Gamalho being an obstacle rather than help. Once they did get through, but Romero's shot was not dangerous enough to get by Agustín Orión.

A key scene then in the 67th minute. Pavón slided into Espino with a two-footed tackle and magically stayed on the pitch with just a yellow card. The refereeing in general was not good tonight and saw many little, and in this case a big one, errors.

Obviously, when Boca got the equalizer, it had to be Pavón. A long pass to the right knocked out the visiting defense completely and found the run of the striker perfectly. His finish was decent as well and beat Conde to his right side from a pretty tight angle. The fact that Pavón is not too smart showed again during his goal celebration. He took off his shirt and received his second yellow card 7 minutes after his first.

Munúa pulled his last card and brought on the clearly not 100% striker López for Gamalho. In the 84th minute, Nico López actually found the back of the net, but from an offside position. After injuries, a goal and a sending off, Mr. Referee saw no need for any second of added time at the end of 90 minutes, so we went right into penalties.


Let us make it short, Boca were the luckier ones during the crapshoot. The first five attempts from both teams combined all went in, before Pérez had his shot saved by Conde. The goalkeeper show continued, as Porras, Insaurralde and Romero were all denied by the respective keepers. Romero could have brought Nacional into the semifinals with his attempt, instead Fabra made it 3-3. Now, the Uruguayans seemingly without any confidence left, sent the young Carballo who shot right into the middle of the goal. No problem for Oríon, who then left the field to substitute Carrizo. Three days after his 25th birthday, the Argentina fired Boca into the round of the last four.


Well done to team and fans. (Photo:
While Boca was the better team on the night, they were simply the luckier ones at the end. Nacional had it on their plates and let it slip away again. They played a good away game, not allowing Boca too much especially during the first half.

Gamalho and Carballo were weakening the team heavily compared to the usual personnel, which is also a reason why Nacional had trouble offensively. Quite obvious that the only goal came from a combination of Barcia and Seba. Alfonso Espino did really well on the left side until he was overplayed on Boca's goal.

Still, the back four Fucile-Victorino-Polenta-Espino has been one of Nacional's biggest strengths this Copa Libertadores season that sadly came to an end now. They can still go out with their heads held high and hopefully attack again next season with a similar looking team, not destroyed by some buying happy millionaire clubs.


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