La Boca cerrada

Palacio and Palermo are disappointed

Copa Libertadores holders Boca Juniors crashed out of the tournament at the semi-final stage on Wednesday night after a thrilling second half in the Maracanã which saw them take the lead through Martín Palermo before hosts Fluminense hit back with a three-goal blitz in the closing half hour. Fluminense, who’ve never got this far in the tournament before, will play another lot of first-time finalists for the trophy, after LDU Quito got past Club América of Mexico on away goals in the other semi on Tuesday. The Flu-Boca match report, and goal video, are right here.

The first half was one of few real chances at either end, although Boca had far the better of the play. Refusing to bow to the history of the Maracanã, they took the game to Fluminense from the off, and in response all the hosts could offer was a few limp long-balls from the defence which occasionally fell kindly for the attackers when they reached the Boca half of the pitch.

Flu’s first real chance came after around quarter-of-an-hour of the opening period when Washington controlled a Gabriel centre in the centre of the penalty box and hacked it just over the crossbar. In response, for all their dominance of possession and what would (were this a rugby match) be deemed ‘territory’, Boca could only muster a few crosses from deep, either headed into home goalkeeper Fernando Henrique’s grateful hands, or dealt with easily by the Brazilian defence. For Boca’s part, Fabián Vargas and, in particular, Sebastián Battaglia were all but unpassable in midfield. With ten minutes of the half left, Juan Román Riquelme had a free kick in a perfect position for him, but after taking an age to decide what to do with it, the curved it high and out for a goal kick.

Shortly before the break, Boca had a corner which Martín Palermo rose to meet with power and send the ball towards the bottom far corner of the goal, but Fernando Henrique made the most eyecatching of a few decent saves in the half to deny him and keep the score at 0-0 on the night. Shortly afterwards, Gabriel, at the other end, cut in from the right and flicked the ball over an opponent’s head before volleying it on for Cicero in the right-hand channel of the Boca box. The attacker might have cut the ball back across the box, but instead shot for the near post and deservedly missed. Flu might have taken more, but they wouldn’t really have deserved it. They went in at the break looking like a side who knew 0-0 would see them through, but not entirely sure how they’d got this far and were still level.

In the second period, Flu started better, working the ball forward in the first minute, but took a while to get going and were stunned when Palermo opened the scoring, squeezing a header underneath Fernando Henrique from a Jesús Dátolo cross. Boca celebrated, aware that they had a goal that, on the balance of play up to that point, should have been decisive.

But from that point forth, Fluminense were a totally different team. They attacked with renewed vigour and striker Dodô was sent on in place of holding midfielder Ygor to give their counters more focus. Within minutes, they were level again, from a spectacular curling free kick twenty-five yards out, clean into the top corner, scored not by Thiago Neves, the usual free kick specialist for the carioca side, but Washington. With the score at 1-1 on the night, Flu were heading through on away goals, but rather than revert to the form they’d shown in the first half, they pushed on from there.

There was time for a couple of attacks and counter-attacks in what had suddenly, in the space of the six minutes between Palermo’s and Washington’s goals, become a fantastically open match. And then in the 26th minute, nine minutes after drawing level, Flu took the lead. A quick ball out from the back to the left reached Darío Conca, and the former River Plate man had the better of the Boca backline for pace. As he advanced on goal he hit a cross for the onrushing Dodô which Hugo Ibarra, racing back at right-back to try and cover him, deflected past Migliore into the Boca net.

Boca attacked from there, Fernando Henrique earning his keep for the night with a few fine saves, most notably a Gordon Banks-like effort to deny Martín Palermo at the near post from a corner as the match ticked towards stoppage time with the home crowd willing the hands of the clock to move just a little faster. Flu, though, weren’t in the mood to sit back any longer, and had a couple of chances of their own before substitute Dodô put it beyond all doubt with a third for the hosts late on in stoppage time.

3-1 on the night, 5-3 to Flu on aggregate, and they advance to the final of the Copa Libertadores for the first time in their history. They’ll be meeting LDU Quito, who got to the knockout round from the same group and are also playing in their first ever Copa final. Boca, the outgoing champions, will have to wait until 2009 to get another shot at equalling Independiente’s record seven Copas.

Fluminense 3 – 1 Boca Juniors

11 thoughts on “La Boca cerrada

  1. Although Flu deserved their goals, I thought Boca were by far the stronger side and simply didn’t make their possession and chances count. They were in a winning position at 1-0 and looked for all the world like Finalists. So what happened to the famous Boca huevos? Beaten by an average team with another average team waiting in the Final. Ah well, sorry my bostero amigos.

  2. I don’t think Boca lacked of huevos.

    Fluminense were lucky to find the equalizer very soon after Palermo’s goal and I think Boca did a great job and they played like if they were the home-team and Fluminense were hoofing the ball with still 30 minutes to go (showing their respect for Boca and some stage-freight at the same time).

    I’m pleased I won’t have to stand a sea of bosteros cracking fireworks and talking non-stop about how much bigger than Manchester United, Real Madrid and Inter (all of them put together) they are.

    Now I’m off to buy a Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito shirt! Come on LDU!

  3. Ah well. Congrats to Flu, but in all honesty, and yes I am biased, I think Boca is the better team. I thought they outworked Flu the large part of the match, but as often has been the case, they just could not make the most of so many chances. Not much more to say than that. I didn’t see the match with Mexico. If I could do it all over again, I would have skipped the Flu disaster and seen the Mexico whuppin’.

  4. To me, losing Caranta to injury is a key to Boca losing the series. Last night, On the Dario Conca goal that deflected off of Ibarra, I have a feeling that Caranta would not have been so far out of position. I know that seems unfair to Migliore but I just have a feeling. Also, Migliore made a huge mistake in BsAs.

    My gosh, Boca played so much better than Flu in both games. But Flu got the goals and therefore they deserve to be finalists. (It hurts to admit it.)

  5. Chris-I agree. The Caranta injury was crucial. Plus, I think that were Caranta to be in goal, Ischia might very well have started Chavez rather than Vargas for more offensive firepower last night from the get go. But hey, if you can’t put the ball in the goal, it doesn’t matter. This has been Boca’s boogeyman all season. Very inconsistent finishing.

  6. What will the Libertadores final be without Riquelme taking 5 minutes to take a free kick, demanding the wall be moved back 15 yards, getting half the opposition booked, and then putting it over the bar?:)

    Regarding Migliore/Caranta, I think the deflected goal was harsh, and it’s hard to say Caranta would have done any better, because Pablito wasn’t really out of position – he was moving across his line with the cross. However, obviously the second goal in the first leg was down to him. I still expected Boca to overcome it, as they did against both Cruziero and Atlas.

  7. <> AGREED! That was so wild. Nearly the same thing happened in the first game (except that he saw yellow!) then he scored!

  8. In addition to Caranta’s physical problems, Riquelme (ill) and Ibarra (playing hurt, no?)’s health problems were also keys. They played well below their normal levels.

    Palacio left his best in BsAs.

    Palermo played his ass off. He was absent in BsAs.

  9. Well, In Buenos Aires, all Boca’s players had good health all right?! And Flu went there and took good score.
    People, remember: Flu is the current Champiom of Brazil’s Cup (The most hard championship of the world), and take off São paulo and Boca. Flu is better than Boca, really. This bad impression you have from Flu, is because Flu have a serious problem: Renato Gaucho (Flu’s coach) put always team in extreme defensive tactic. But the spirit of team (look: Washington, Thiago Neves, Conca, Dodô, Cícero and Júnior César) is Extreme Offensive. It Causes trouble in the Group ( see the game again and you will see it)
    “When Flu wins, Flamengo’s Hooligays cries!!lol”
    Thanks! ( and sorry for my terrible english)

  10. Pinheiro, you have a good fair points there. But I think Renato Gaucho is one of the reasons why Flu got to the Copa Libertadores finals.

    Fluminense had a great first round (in fact, they were the best team in the entire Copa) and they deservedly arrived to where they are (even though they were a minute from getting knocked out by Sao Paulo (if Rogerio Zeni didn’t hurry in trying to start a counterattack with Adriano in the last minute, just before Flu’s third goal, then it would have been the tricolor paulista in the semis, instead of Fluminense).

    But I’m not taking any credit off of Fluminense.

    To say that Flu is better than Boca is to based your thought on results alone (and a lot of people will tell you that you are right and results are the most important thing in football). I’d say Fluminense were more effective and Boca paid a big prize for their mistakes. To me, they are not better than Boca. But those are just opinions.

    And how can you say the Copa do Brasil is the most difficult championship in the World? You don’t have to play against the countries top clubs (those who are already qualified to the Copa Libertadores in that period) and you can win it after playing only 8 or 10 games. I like that competition and it’s the closest to the FA Cup we have in South America (because you play teams from the lower leagues as well). But it’s nowhere near to be the toughest in the world.

    I mean…Fluminense defeated Figueirense in last year’s final. Name me one Figueirense player in a national team or give me a list of Figueirense’s international or domestic titles. See my point?

    Meeeeeeeeeeeeeengo, porra! Vamos LDU! :)

  11. Oh…and based on results alone…Fluminense could be better than Boca, but then Fluminense, bottom of the Brazilian league, is worst than all of the Brazilian first division teams.

    I’m sure you don’t agree with that.

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