Friday, March 10, 2017

Nacional start Copa Libertadores with win over Lanús

After 18 long days, Nacional finally returned to action with their Copa Libertadores tie in Argentina. Their opponents were of high caliber in domestic champions CA Lanús, who had not played a competitive game at all in 2017 as of yet.

Strong away support following Nacional to Argentina (Photo: Nacional/Twitter).

Personnel: Tata González gets his first start

Álvaro González claimed the headlines early as he made his first start for Nacional, replacing Brian Lozano in right midfield. It was the only change made by Martín Lasarte from the last league outing. Lanús coach Jorge Almirón on the other hand used none of his newly signed players in his first XI and trusted the likes of José Sand and Lautaro Acosta. Goalkeeper Esteban Andrada replaced the injured Fernando Monetti, who was a big loss for the Argentines.

First half: Decent away performance underlined by lead

The opening stages of the match were relatively quiet with both teams trying to find a way to settle following their long breaks. A first attempt from Kevin Ramírez flew wide after 9 minutes. Just one minute later, it was Hugo Silveira, who used an error in Lanús' defense, but had his shot saved by Andrada. Uruguay's record champion enjoyed a decent start, not only because of two half chances. They did not offer the home team any room at all going forward and controlled the game from their own half. 

It took Lanús 24 minutes to produce a first bit of danger around Nacional's penalty area, yet they failed to get a clear shot on goal in the process. Lasarte's back line blocked shot after shot beautifully before clearing the danger. An attack across the left wing brought the deserved lead for Nacional after 26 minutes. Ramírez played an excellent ball towards Espino under pressure and the left-back, after advancing forward, found Silveira in the middle with the perfect pass, leaving the striker with no other option than to score. 

Hugo Silveira celebrates after giving his team the lead.
The Uruguayans nearly got a second goal not too long after when Ramírez was sent through with a high ball, but Andrade was there in time to clear the danger. Lanús struggled to find an answer to the goal against, but had an excellent chance after 35 minutes. A mad scramble in the 6-yard box ended with the ball hitting Silveira's hand (accidentally). He managed to clear it away from his own goal line. On the other side, the lively Ramírez had yet another chance to make it 2-0 and sent the ball narrowly wide. 

Second half: A few scares, but across the finish line

Lanús did not get a much better start to the second 45 minutes either. An even match saw both teams fight their midfield battles for quite some time. After about an hour, the home team collected a little more possession, without actually threatening Esteban Conde's goal. Nacional did the obvious in the meantime and waited for their chance to counter. 

Lanús had their first chance of the second half after 67 minutes, Román Martínez' header from a corner, denied in magnificent fashion by the aforementioned Conde. What makes the save more impressive is his absolute non-existent involvement in the previous 20 minutes. Both coaches produced a series of substitutions, which for example saw goalscorer Silveira exit the field after a good performance. 

Reaching the last 10 minutes, it was all or nothing time for the Argentines. You would have thought so at least. Nacional's defense still held up strong and Lanús did not exactly seem like a team filled with the last bit of energy, which is understandable considering their heavy amount of time without competitive football. It ended with just the one goal and a 1-0 win for Nacional.

Man of the Match: Rafael García 

Rock-solid at the back, without any mistakes, even dangerous up front for set pieces, Garcia was leading his team together with captain Diego Polenta throughout the 90 minutes to a deserved win. The few amount of chances for Lanús underline a very good defensive away performance. Just what Nacional and Lasarte wanted from their back-line and XI. 


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