Brazilian sides often show a lot of deference to Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores, but on Wednesday afternoon in La Bombonera, at 2-0 down Cruzeiro got one back with a stunning strike after 68 minutes to take the wind out of the hosts’ sails and give the Brazilians a potentially crucial away goal to take back to Minerão next week. Boca’s next opponents, River Plate, who visit La Bombonera for Sunday’s superclásico, also didn’t have the best preparation, losing 2-1 in the Nuevo Gasómetro to San Lorenzo in the round’s all-Argentine match-up.
Boca’s idea was to get a comfortable win and a clean sheet to help make next week’s trip to the Brazilian interior a little easier, and they started strongly, Rodrigo Palacio seeing a shot blocked just two minutes in. With he and Juan Román Riquelme linking well, and Martín Palermo providing as much nuisance value as ever to the Brazilian side’s centre backs, the early signs were promising. Cruzeiro’s attacks were orchestrated by Bolivian playmaker Marcelo Moreno for striker Guilherme, but very early on Boca took the lead through Riquelme, who was put through by Alvaro González and finished well. They could have added to it, but lacked clinicism in their finishing before the break.
After half-time, though, Jesús Dátolo continued his recent impressive goalscoring form. Around 55 minutes in, he cut down the left channel and received a ball from Riquelme which he just stopped going out for a goal kick. With the goalkeeper advancing, Dátolo dragged the ball back, sending centre back Jonathan sliding past on his backside off the pitch, touched the ball into the six yard box and finished powerfully inside the near post. A superb goal and Boca’s lead, now doubled, looked unassailable. It looked so simple, until with 13 minutes of the 90 left, a corner played back outside the penalty box found Fabricio, who hit the ball from fully 30 yards out. Taking a deflection off González, it decieved Mauricio Caranta and looped into the net. Cruzeiro have hope, Boca have a long flight and a potentially tricky second leg ahead.
San Lorenzo and River, in the all-Argentine tie of the round, served up a fantastic game in which the subtexts of Ramón Díaz and Andrés D’Alessandro taking on their former club (as was River’s Uruguayan forward Sebastián Abreu, although given the number of clubs he’s played for the opposite would be more of a surprise) played second fiddle, in the end, to the football. The match swung from end to end, with River’s attack led by Radamel Falcao García – who wasn’t called up by Colombia for a friendly which might otherwise have seen him miss this match and the super – and San Lorenzo’s, as ever, by Gonzalo Bergessio and Néstor Silvera. Down River’s right, Augusto Fernández and Paulo Ferrari tested Diego Placente and found him wanting, but before that partnership bore fruit, San Lorenzo took the lead.
Near the edge of the box, Adrián González won the ball and played in a good cross low across the six-yard box, which Silvera got to before anyone else to turn it high into the net past Juan Pablo Carrizo. 1-0 to San Lorenzo, but they barely had time to settle before Fernández picked the ball up on the right, dragged Placente inside and played the ball into the vacated left-back slot of San Lorenzo’s backline, for Ferrari to race onto it (sorry, sorry…) and put a high cross which Falcao rose powerfully to head in. 1-1, River had the away goal, and the match continued in much the same vein, swaying from one end to the other – the only thing lacking was more goals.
The second half, as it wore on, became increasingly more breathless with San Lorenzo looking for a home win but River apparently intent on adding to the single away goal they’d secured. The visitors lacked the final ball, though, and when they did get through either fluffed their finishes, or saw shots saved by Agustín Orión in the San Lorenzo goal. And as football dictates, chances missed at one end are rued at the other. Three minutes remained when a cross went in which hit Alexis Sánchez’s arm, raised whilst he challenged with his head. Whether it was deliberate or not was a moot point, but it was certainly a penalty, and González stepped up to claim the goal his performance merited and give Los Santos an aggregate advantage to take to the Monumental next week. San Lorenzo have beaten Boca and River in a few short days. The away goal means River needn’t feel too gloomy, but they’ll need to improve in the opposing box next week.
Boca Juniors 2 – 1 Cruzeiro
San Lorenzo de Almagro 2 – 1 River Plate