The champions march on

Three Argentines clubs have already fallen in this year’s Copa Libertadores, and another is guaranteed to go on Thursday night when River Plate and San Lorenzo fight it out for a place in the last eight. Defending champions Boca Juniors, though, have booked their place in the quarter final after overcoming Brazilian challengers Cruzeiro 2-1 in Belo Horizonte to win 4-2 on aggregate. Following Sunday’s win the the superclásico, Carlos Ischia’s men are starting to get into their stride just as the season’s key weeks approach…

Boca’s victory came on the strength of a superb first half performance in which, away from home against strong opposition, on an enormous pitch, was the epitome of a dream away showing in a continental tie. Cruzeiro started the stronger, coming forward with intent towards Boca’s goal – as one would expect from a side trailing 2-1 from the first leg – but without the accuracy and range to make a breakthrough. Juan Román Riquelme was shackled for much of the early stages, but with the pace of Rodrigo Palacio up front, Boca nonetheless had a great outlet for their counter-attacks, and threatened on a couple of ocassions. As the missed chances for the hosts mounted up, Cruzeiro became a little nervous. Boca were able to defend further up the pitch, comfortable against rivals who lacked the nerve to get past their backline and cause Mauricio Caranta problems.

36 minutes in, Rodrigo Palacio made it more comfortable still for Boca, converting superbly after Jesús Dátolo had helped create the chance for him. And seven minutes on, Martín Palermo doubled the lead with a typically powerful header from a Dátolo cross. At the break, Boca’s aggregate lead was 4-1.

Eleven minutes after the restart, Wagner clawed back the first of the four Cruzeiro needed with a brilliant flying volley after a left-wing free kick wasn’t cleared properly, Caranta given no chance. For the final half-hour, Boca largely sat back, legs tired from the exertions of Sunday’s match against River followed by the long flight, no doubt, and were the victims of one or two horrible challenges – Riquelme was clattered from behind by midfielder Ramires, who picked up a second yellow card for his troubles, with eight minutes to go. It was the last meaningful action of a match which leaves Boca suddenly looking a far more likely bet to defend their trophy than they did after just barely scraping through the group stage.

Boca will play Atlas in the quarter-final, and will have to play their home leg away from La Bombonera as punishment for the incident during the first leg of this tie in which, at the end of the match, a linesman was hit by an ice cube thrown from the executive boxes behind him. For now, they can prepare in the knowledge that they’re season is starting to hit their stride at the right time…

For the goals, check back on Thursday evening.

9 thoughts on “The champions march on

  1. Onward and upward us Boca fans hope. Better finishing and Palacio did what he does best, cutting back to the middle and launching a deadly strike. Palermo with a trademark well placed headshot to make it nearly impossible for Cruzeiro. A little frantic in the second period but Cruzeiro with too much to make up. Monzon with a stand up performance as my man of the match, but the honor could go to any number of players. Man, was that Apodi guy, striker/winger ?, who came on in the second period fast or what ? Ba-laazzzing !

  2. And please…somebody put me out of my misery! This year is just terrible for me! Flamengo, somehow, managed to get knocked out after winning the first leg 4-2 away from home.

    I’ve watched the whole match on SopCast and they were really unlucky in the first half. But they were guilty of conceding a goal in a counter-attack and then were unlucky again with a free-kick by Salvador Cabañas that took a deflection in the wall and went in.

    I’m devastated. I wonder when will this horrible run finish?

    Boca was superb in the first half and they destroyed Cruzeiro’s heads. Now they are saying that La Bombonera will be suspended until the end of the Copa Libertadores (because of what happened with that linesman in the first leg against Cruzeiro), but they (the Conmebol) are also saying that if Boca advance to the final, they’ll be allowed to play in their mythical stadium all the same. I don’t know what will happen…all I know is that it’s going to take a hell of a professional display by the team who will try to eliminate them.

  3. Flamengo lost???? How do you throw away 4 away goals?

    A Brazilian side will not eliminate Boca. They have no huevos when they face Boca. For all Brazil’s football culture and history, there is something about Boca that makes them crumble. Cruziero were truly awful in the first leg, and incredibly fortunate it was only 2-1. Tonight they were inspired at the start but then quickly grew nervous, and only started to play after it was all over.

    If San Lorenzo get past River, they’ll be a tough test for Boca. Otherwise I think they will comfortably win the title again. They could win 3 more of these before Riquelme retires.

  4. And Justin what if river beat san lorenzo?? Do they not stand a chace? Any bostero reading those comments will be gloating and u call yourself a gallina!! Vamos los Millos, hay que poner un poco mas de huevos. We’ll win the clausura and libertadores.

  5. Ha Ha ! The clubs from Brazil are searching for their juevos and now we have the River fans arguing with each other. That said, I don’t think Boca is unbeatable. They have played well at times lately, but still not in the same form as last year at this time. I think either River or San Lorenzo could take them. Its up for grabs.

    This stadium ban thing irks the shit out of me ! Why do they penalize all Boca fans (and the same thing happens to other clubs) because of the behavior of one individual ? Absurd ! And how hard is it to find the perpetrator, file charges, ban him/her from the Bombonera and have justice done ? I take no pleasure in sounding like an “ugly american”, but the way fan misbehavior is handled here in Argentina is a very bad joke. They just refuse to address the root of the problem and instead apply a number of sanctions that will have no significant impact on this type of behavior in the future.

    Well, that’s my morning, not yet finished with my coffee, rant ! I invite any and all criticism about certain ingrained cultural screw ups in the states ! The majority of them are likely to be dead on !!

    Your Humble Gringo in Buenos Aires

  6. Oh no murt, I DO think River have a chance. I meant that to be understood as either of them will be a test for Boca. And in fact I agree, I think River will win the Clausura. I just can’t be as confident about the Libertadores.

    I watched the Flamengo-America game on replay, what a disaster. I’ve always wondered when Mexican sides will start performing to the level of the money they have in their league, and maybe that is starting to happen with Atlas and America.

  7. Justin…it could be that, or it could be that Flamengo got the whole strategy wrong! They went all out to score and they didn’t need to! They should have waited a little bit more, let America do all the work and hit them in the counter-attack. They did just the opposite.

    They took one goal on a counter-attack and the other two were unlucky deflections but the point is that they got it all wrong tactically.

    And Johnny…I’ve been living in this country for almost my entire life (I turn 31 this month) and what you are saying is something that is making me very angry for as long as I can remember. The problem is that there is no justice in this country. This could turn into a very long and interesting debate but I don’t have much time now.

    Just one point though…the AFA and the Conmebol have entirely different approaches to disciplinary measures and the AFA can’t do anything when it comes to a Copa Libertadores match (that is of course organized by the Conmebol).

    But make no mistake…the two entities are completely corrupted and they do whatever gives them less problems (or more money!). No justice at all!

  8. I don’t think the ban is controversial, personally. If the same thing happens in a European match (as it has a few times in Italy during recent Champions League campaigns), a stadium ban is handed out. It’s the club being punished, not the fans – the fans will just have to watch Boca’s quarter- and semi-finals in a different stadium (as far as I’m aware, Boca haven’t actually been told to play behind closed doors).

    The controversy should be, as you say Johnny, that so little / nothing at all is done to find the actual perpetrators and thus stop it happening again. The executive boxes, too – it really shouldn’t be hard to track someone down in those! None of Roy Keane’s loathed prawn-sandwich-eaters in Argentina, clearly…

  9. Thanks for the feedback about the stadium ban. I know that this is not just an Argentine phenomenon. What most rankles me is the failure of the powers that be to tackle the problem head on. It’s the same avoidance that we see with the various barrabravas. I don’t expect any change. I’m only getting it off my chest.
    Peace !:)

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