‘Estudiantes are more of a team than Boca,’ Defensor Sporting manager Jorge Da Silva had said in the buildup to the first leg of the 2009 Copa Libertadores quarter-final first leg. On Thursday night Estudiantes showed that where Carlos Ischia’s side had failed against Defensor in the previous round, they’re well equipped to succeed, going to the Estadio Centenario and claiming a solid and deserved win which should serve them well in the second leg.
Where Boca had been uncharacteristically slack, especially in allowing a last-minute equaliser which ended up proving pivotal in the tie, Estudiantes were solid and, throughout a second half that could barely be described as thrill-a-minute, didn’t really look in any danger of allowing Defensor to level.
Leandro Desábato was the man who made the difference. The former Quilmes player threw himself at a deflected Seba Verón free kick in the twelfth minute and steered it with his shoulder past home goalkeeper Martín Silva, Boca’s nemesis, to give Estudiantes the lead early on. Defensor, with the pressure of home expectation after that historic win in La Bombonera in the previous round, were stifled.
Shortly after the goal both sides were reduced to ten men after Jorge Curbelo and Marcos Angeleri got into a scrap, and after that Defensor sparked into life somewhat. The only mistake Mariano Andújar made all night was when he allowed Alvaro Navarro to beat him to a high cross. The forward’s header went just wide of the post.
In the second half Defensor came out looking to even up the game, of course, but Estudiantes’ tactics were strong: keeping a high defensive line to keep the pressure off Andújar, they moved the ball forward rapidly as they tried to put the match to bed. Mauro Boselli hit the crossbar with a left-footed shot midway through the first half but otherwise there was little to write home about.
A controlled performance bought an away win, and when the second leg kicks off back in La Plata on the 18th June (the long wait is due to the World Cup qualifiers), El Pincha will be well placed to progress.
Copa Libertadores 2009, quarter-final first leg, 28th May: Defensor Sporting Club (URU) 0 – 1 Estudiantes de La Plata