Unión Maracaibo 1 – 1 Boca Juniors

Riquelme can’t quite cut it

The champions of South American began their defence of their Copa Libertadores crown on Wednesday night, and stumbled against Unión in Maracaibo, falling behind with just ten minutes left before rallying to claim a point. Sebastián Battaglia equalised for Boca Juniors just minutes after Miguel Mea Vitali appeared to have handed his team three unlikely points.

The Venezuelans got stuck into their illustrious visitors from the off in front of a roaring home crowd, and didn’t allow Boca to settle at all in the early exchanges. Unión had marginally the better of the early play, holding Boca’s attacks at arm’s length even if they were unable to do much to trouble Mauricio Caranta in the Xeneize goal. Maracaibo’s own goalkeeper, Juan Carlos Henao, who won the competition with Once Caldas against Boca in 2004, wasn’t overworked either, although on one ocassion before the break he came out dreadfully for a high ball and almost let Martín Palermo in with a chance – the striker shot well but saw his effort blocked on the goal line. Juan Román Riquelme, meanwhile, couldn’t get into the game – his most notable contribution of the half came at its end, when a home fan invaded the pitch to run up to him and give him a bear hug. Aah.

Boca did much better in the second half, Rodrigo Palacio sending a warning shot across Maraciabo’s bows as he slammed one against the crossbar, and thereafter returned to missing in less agonising / spectacular fashion, most notably when he got through one-on-one with Henao but fluffed his lines. Ten minutes remained, though, when Maracaibo made Boca pay for their profligacy, with a spectacular free kick from Miguel Mea Vitali. Boca were rocked but rallied quickly, Sebastián Battaglia bringing down a forward pass and slipping it under the goalkeeper to restore parity. The champions have a point from an unexpectedly awkward opening, and will be looking to build on it from here.

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