Real Potosí 2 – 3 San Lorenzo

Nearly 4,000 metres above sea level, it was never going to be plain sailing for San Lorenzo as they aimed to get their Copa Libertadores group campaign finally off the ground. Their hosts, though, had different ideas, and after Los Santos had missed two golden opportunities early on, shocked the Argentines with a strong performance and two wonderful first half goals. It looked all over – but an amazing second half fightback from Ramón Díaz’s men earned them their first win of the Libertadores campaign.

Bernardo Romeo missed a good chance early on, but was overshadowed in that regard by centre-back Nicolás Bianchi Arce, who found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper after a half-cleared corner cannoned back into the box via a long-range shot and a deflection off a Real Potosí player. Arce controlled beautifully, turned to face the goalkeeper, about ten yards out – and smashed the ball unforgivingly against the crossbar. As a defender, he might have been forgiven, if it weren’t for the fact that two minutes later, Real playmaker Miguel Loayza took the ball in the left channel and let fly a vicious shot from fully 30 yards that curled into the top corner of the goal, leaving Agustín Orión with no chance.

Fifteen minutes later, just over half-an-hour in, the lead was doubled as Loayza danced past a couple of San Lorenzo players before threading the eye of a needle with a lovely through ball which sent striker Alvaro Pintos clean through on the edge of the six yard box. The forward calmly took the ball past Orión before slotting home from an angle, and Real looked well worth their 2-0 half time lead. At high altitude, it wasn’t going to prove easy for San Lorenzo to come back from two goals down in the second half.

Five minutes after the restart, their task got a tiny bit easier when home midfielder Gonzalo Galindo got himself sent off for petulantly kicking away the legs of Juan Manuel Torres, who’d dispossesed him in San Lorenzo’s half. The resultant free kick was delayed for around three minutes by a pitch invasion – from a dog.

San Lorenzo, though their players were too cowardly to approach the mutt, were admirably determined in their  determination to overturn or at least narrow the deficit, and were handed their chance twenty minutes later with a free kick on the right flank. Juan Manuel Torres whipped it in left-footed, and target man Bernardo Romeo got a glancing header to send it past Hugo Suárez in the home goal. 2-1.

That goal seemed to stir the hosts, who, straight from the restart, made headway into San Lorenzo’s half, but got only as far as the edge of the penalty box with a slick passing move before losing the ball. Thirteen minutes on, the match was level. A corner came in from the left, Romeo got a head to it and could only watch as the ball hit the post. This time, though, unlike Bianchi Arce’s earlier miss, the woodwork helped San Lorenzo out, as the ball bounced straight to substitute full back Cristian Chávez, who stabbed it in from close range for the equaliser.

It looked like San Lorenzo had rescued the most unlikely of points from a dismal half-time situation. But with three minutes of the ninety remaining, things got even better. Gonzalo Bergessio was brought down by home defender Santos Amador in the box, and the referee awarded a penalty. Aureliano Torres kept his cool, sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, and San Lorenzo, after surviving an almost immediate long-range attempt that sailed just past the angle of Orión’s post and crossbar, finally had their first win outside Argentina since November 2002. They’re still only third in their group, but crucially are now just a point behind Caracas, and with three group matches remaining, it’s all still to play for after a brilliant turnaround in a really astonishing match.

Check back tomorrow for the goals, of course.

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