Boca Juniors needed a draw to confirm their qualification for the knockout round of the 2009 Copa Libertadores, whilst simultaneously dumping tonight’s hosts out of the tournament, and for most of the match it was a result they looked like getting. With thirteen minutes left, though, Edison Preciado Bravo stabbed the ball past R0berto Abbondanzieri to keep Cuenca in the competition.
After a decent enough showing in the first half, Boca seemed in control of things and, aware that everything was in their hands and they needed just a point to see off their hosts’ last lingering hopes of qualifying ahead of them, there were few nerves on display. The second half saw the ball closer to the home goal than the away goal, and when Rodrigo Palacio was sent on to replace Pablo Mouche alongside Martín Palermo, it seemed Carlos Ischia’s men were determined to seal victory.
That change was augmented, five minutes later, by Osvaldo Gaitán’s withdrawal in favour of the younger Damián Díaz, a more fresh-legged playmaker to exert yet more pressure on the home rearguard. Just four minutes after Díaz’s introduction, though, it was Boca’s defence which was breached. Preciado Bravo raced onto a ball out of the midfield and squeezed between two Boca defenders and Abbondanzieri to stab the ball, from the edge of the penalty area, into the empty net.
Boca subsequently threw Ricardo Noir on to replace Fabián Vargas, and both sides saw shots flashed across the face of goal go narrowly wide of the far post in the closing minutes, but Cuenca held on to win the match.
The odds are still massively in favour of Boca progressing. They have 12 points, with Deportivo Táchira on 9 points but the same goal difference (+5) as Boca, and Cuenca also on 9 points but with a goal difference of 0. Boca’s last match is against Táchira, so a draw would see them through. Táchira, of course, will be desperate to win because Cuenca will be playing group whipping boys Guaraní. Should a Táchira win combine with a big enough Cuenca win, Boca could go out on goal difference, but given that their last match is in La Bombonera, they won’t be sweating too much.
For the goals of this game, and to find out how River Plate get on in a match that’s only just kicked off (I’m off to bed now), come back on Friday evening.