There was a popular belief surrounding South American football until last year. It said that Brazilian club sides taking part in the Copas weren’t afraid of anyone at all, until they came up against Boca Juniors. When they met the boys from the Riachuelo, though, they’d lie down for fear of angering their foes and allow themselves to be rolled over. That doesn’t seem to be the case any more. São Paulo put Boca out of the Copa Sudamericana last year, Fluminense knocked them out of the Copa Libertadores at the semi-final stage this year, and now Internacional are joining in the fun, following a 2-1 victory in La Bombonera to go through to the semi-finals of this year’s Copa Sudamericana after winning 4-1 on aggregate.
Boca had an unbeaten run at home stretching back 29 matches in international competition, to the infamous night they were knocked out of the 2005 Copa Libertadores by Chivas amid scenes that saw them banned from using La Bombonera in the Copas, and from participating in the following year’s Libertadores (a weak punishment since they hadn’t qualified for it anyway). But tonight, led by former River Plate playmaker Andrés D’Alessandro, Internacional ended that run, and await the winners of the Chivas vs. River quarter-final in the semis.
It took until two minutes after the break for the first goal to arrive. Carlos Ischia had gambled on replacing Nery Cardozo with Lucas Viatri to give an already attacking Boca (who lost the first leg 2-0) more presence up front, but Magrao broke forward immediately, exchanged passes with Nilmar and crashed a shot against the crossbar. He got to the rebound first, and forced in a goal that left Boca needing four.
Afterwards, Ischia sent on Jesús Dátolo and Juan Román Riquelme to bolster an otherwise largely reserve lineup, and it had an effect – Riquelme got an equaliser from the penalty spot after Dátolo had taken a dive to win the kick, just minutes after the two were introduced to the fray. Boca had some life left in them, but the tie was effectively ended when, in the 72nd minute, D’Alessandro put Alex through with a superb pass for the striker to stroke home left-footed. Eighteen minutes remained, but weren’t really required.
Inter await either Chivas or River, who kick off shortly in Guadalajara, with the Mexicans holding a 2-1 advantage from the first leg. We’ll have the goals from that match and Boca vs. Internacional on Friday afternoon, when I’ll be back in England and normal HEGS service will be resumed.