In the week in which Argentina gained its first Pope (because the country’s collective ego clearly wasn’t already large enough), Argentine sides won four of the four matches they played in the Copa Libertadores. Tuesday saw Newell’s Old Boys and Vélez Sarsfield get wins, whilst Thursday saw Boca Juniors and Arsenal de Sarandí claim three points. Boca, reduced to ten men by Claudio Pérez’s sending off 20 minutes in, took the win as a result of Juan Román Riquelme’s penalty minutes before the break in the Estadio Centenario. Arsenal’s win over São Paulo was equally hard fought. All the goals are here.
Nacional (URU) 0 – 1 Boca
Boca got revenge for last week’s defeat in La Bombonera, and deserved the win after a spirited performance. It wasn’t classic Boca, as they hang on towards the end and saw some good chances go begging, but Riquelme’s penalty gave them the points they so desperately needed anyway, to go second in group 1. Boca have 6 points, Nacional 7, with Toluca on 5 and Barcelona de Guayaquil on 3. Everyone in group 1 has played four games.
Arsenal 2 – 1 São Paulo
Arsenal started this match just hoping to get a better result than the last time they hosted a Brazilian club; the Ronaldinho-and-Bernard-inspired 5-2 win for Atlético Mineiro a few weeks ago. They got much more than that; a victory that puts them level with the Brazilians on points and gives them a fighting chance of qualifying.
Last week, Arsenal visited the continent’s largest city, and got a 1-1 draw in Pacaembu. Thursday’s match was dominated by São Paulo, as Arsenal goalkeeper Cristian Campestrini played a blinder, until Jorge Ortiz fired the hosts into the lead about halfways through the second half. It seemed Aloísio had spoiled the party seven minutes on, as he equalised from a narrow angle, but Diego Braghieri scored what proved to be the winner with six minutes of normal time remaining.
In group 3, all teams have played four matches. Atlético Mineiro have maximum points – 12 – but São Paulo and Arsenal both have four, with the Brazilians ahead for the moment on goal difference. The Strongest, of Bolivia, have just three. Potentially crucial is the fact that São Paulo still have to visit La Paz, whilst Arsenal have already played there. Watch this space…