Estudiantes de La Plata and Lanús played their final matches in Group 2 of the Copa Libertadores last night at home to Deportivo Cuenca and away to Danubio respectively, needing results to ensure participation in the next round. For Roberto Sensini’s men, a draw was enough, but with a win they’d win the group. For Lanús, meanwhile, a point would also be enough – or possibly even a defeat, depending on the result of the Estudiantes vs. Cuenca match.
Things started well for Estudiantes, Leandro Lázzaro putting them ahead after a mere 11 minutes in La Plata, his first goal in the Copa Libertadores. Quarter of an hour later he failed to double his and his side’s tally, Cuenca goalkeeper Javier Klimowicz getting the better of him in a one-on-one. All the same, the visitors struggled to cope with Estudiantes’ movement and defensive organisation in a 3-4-3 formation, though in the second half there were fewer chances – a shot from Iván Moreno y Fabianesi that was pushed over by Klimowicz was an exception to the trend – but by and large they were keeping Cuenca at arm’s length, comfortable if unconvincing, until the magnificently named Polo R. Wila Cangá put through his own net late on to seal a 2-0 victory for Estudiantes and with it, the prize of finishing top of the group.
In Montevideo, Lanús, who’ve endured a torid first half of the Clausura campaign, rediscovered their form of the Apertura in a wonderful second half display against Danubio. After ten matches, the league champions have finally won again, and with boss Ramón Cabrero declaring prior to the match that ‘we don’t know how to play defensively,’ even on their terrible recent run, and only needing a draw to qualify, they still went to Parque Central with the intention of playing like a big team – and they succeeded. To start with they played a waiting game, with possession of the ball the order of the day and Diego Valeri probing in the attack. Later in the first half they began to get forward more, and José Sand hit the crossbar. In the second half, Cabrero’s men attacked with more conviction and Sebastián Blanco stabbed home a rebound after Danubio ‘keeper Néstor Conde saved a free kick. Ten minutes on, Sand got a second for Lanús to confirm qualification, and even Cristián Bardaro’s late consolation for the hosts couldn’t detract from a great night for the Granate. A first away win of 2008, but their unbeaten record in the Copa means only their second win of the groups was enough to send Lanús through to the second round along with their compatriots.
Estudiantes finish Group 2 with 11 points (3 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss); Lanús with 10 (2 wins, 4 draws); Deportivo Cuenca 6 (1 win, 3 draws, 2 losses), and Danubio 4 (1 win, 1 draw and 4 losses).