Group Stage of the Libertadores Nears Its End

Group Stage of the Libertadores Comes to an End

Ñublense, Medellín, Barcelona, Sporting Cristal, Corinthians, Colo Colo, Libertad, and Patronato Fight for a Spot in the Sudamericana Round of 16

Pereira, Independiente del Valle, and Nacional Among the Teams Securing Their Qualification in the Last Matchday

The Ecuadorian Barcelona Bounces Back to Secure a 2-2 Draw Against Paraguayan Cerro Porteño

The Ecuadorian Barcelona recovered and secured a 2-2 draw on Thursday against Paraguayan Cerro Porteño, a result that allowed the team from Guayaquil to advance to the ‘playoff’ stage of the Copa Sudamericana in the closing of Group C in the Copa Libertadores. Damián Bobadilla, in the 2nd minute, and Claudio Aquino, in the 43rd, scored for Cerro Porteño, but Janner Corozo, in the 57th, and Argentine Jonathan Bauman, in the 88th, netted the goals that saved Barcelona’s first half of the year, during which they had a campaign filled with ups and downs.

The first half was completely in favor of Cerro Porteño, which found great ease in penetrating the disorganized and excessively anxious local defensive system. After a collective play by the Paraguayan team, originating from the left side with a cross in which their attackers deceived the defensive sector of the home team with their movements, Bobadilla arrived alone on the right side and beat Argentine goalkeeper Javier Burrai with a low shot. Burrai himself prevented the second goal by blocking Diego Churín’s shot, who went on a swift counterattack alongside Wilder Viera. Aquino later tried to score for Cerro Porteño, but once again, Burrai stood in the way.

The second goal for the “Cyclone from Barrio Obrero” was scored by Aquino from a penalty after a foul by Brazilian Leonai Souza.

At the start of the second half, Barcelona pressed for a goal, and defender Luca Sosa hit the crossbar with a shot after a corner kick from Damián Díaz. Barcelona’s pressure led them to reduce the deficit with a splendid low shot from forward Corozo, assisted by Segundo Portocarrero, which the defenders and goalkeeper Jean Paulo Fernández failed to control.

The “Cyclone from Barrio Obrero” entrenched themselves defensively without locking themselves in their own area and remained on the hunt for any defensive errors from their opponents. Federico Carrizo had a chance when he found himself alone against Burrai, but his shot hit the right post, and Luca Sosa ultimately saved the home team. The long-awaited equalizing goal that secured Barcelona’s passage to the Copa Sudamericana ‘playoff’ stage was scored by Argentine Bauman from a penalty.

Piquerez Shines

Palmeiras, with a goal and an assist from Uruguayan Joaquín Piquerez, snatched the leadership of Group C from Bolívar on Thursday, defeating them 4-0 and securing the best campaign of the entire Copa Libertadores group stage. The Brazilian team built their victory on ten inspired minutes in the first half that resulted in goals from Rony (24th minute), assisted by Raphael Veiga with a back-heel pass, and Artur, who headed in a cross from Piquerez (34th minute). The left-back scored again towards the end of the match (76th minute) after a good combination with Veiga, and Artur, despite experiencing cramps, sealed the counterattack (85th minute).

None of the 32 teams in this group stage of the tournament have accumulated the 15 points achieved by the team led by Portuguese coach Abel Ferreira. It was a perfect campaign except for the defeat suffered at home against Bolívar in the first matchday (3-1). That stain was erased on Thursday at Sao Paulo’s Allianz Parque, where the same solid and efficient team that won the 2020 and 2021 Libertadores was seen. The Bolivian squad was a disaster in defense but secured their spot in the round of 16 as the group’s runner-up (12 points). Cerro Porteño and Barcelona de Guayaquil failed to advance.

Palmeiras started without haste but with determination. With Colombian Richard Ríos in the starting lineup, the green and white team gradually approached Lampe’s goal. Rony was always lurking. The Brazilian international is synonymous with intensity. A key player, he once again proved to be Palmeiras’ attacking reference, far superior to Endrick, the young prospect tied to Real Madrid, who once again sat on the bench. Rony’s goal was typical of his style. A defensive error from Bolívar, Veiga produced a creative back-heel pass, and Rony controlled the ball with his chest inside the box before scoring as he fell.

Ten minutes later, the second goal arrived, the first from Artur. Despite being only 1.68 meters tall, the forward rose higher than anyone else and headed in a well-placed cross from Piquerez. Apart from a powerful shot from José Sagredo that warmed up Weverton, Bolívar offered very little.

At the start of the second half, Lampe intervened again to clear a well-placed shot from Gabriel Menino from outside the box. The match then entered a saving mode, with the visitors attempting to create some danger after the entry of Spanish player Pablo Hervías, while the home team awaited the perfect counterattack. However, the sentence was delivered through a good combination between Veiga and Piquerez, which the Uruguayan defender finished inside the box.

There was still time for Artur’s brace, who scored despite experiencing cramps, causing frustration for the La Paz squad. The best version of Palmeiras has returned.

Pereira Advances to Round of 16

Colombian team Deportivo Pereira secured their spot in the round of 16 on Thursday with a goalless draw against Chilean club Colo Colo at the Monumental stadium. Colo Colo, relegated to third place, will now have to compete in the Copa Sudamericana playoffs. Both teams were evenly matched, and their lack of match fitness was evident, particularly their lack of accuracy in front of the goal. The home team made their own mistakes, while the Colombians faced another impressive performance from Rodrigo de Paul, who showed why he took the starting position from Chilean international Bryan Cortés.

Colo Colo, desperate for a victory that would secure them second place and fearful of a defeat that would eliminate them from all international competitions, once again fell victim to their anxiety and lack of finishing. Youngster Damián Pizarro demonstrated his willingness and power, but lacked quality and, above all, clarity in front of the net. He had the best chance of the match in the 53rd minute, with a loose ball in the box following a great team play, but he did the hardest part: sending it over the crossbar when a simple push would have sufficed.

Just two minutes later, Zuluaga silenced the Monumental stadium, albeit for only a few seconds. He took advantage of a great penetration from the left flank to send the ball into the net, but Brazilian referee Cesar Sampaio disallowed the goal, considering Zuluaga’s teammate Rodríguez to be in an offside position and obstructing De Paul’s view.

With both teams sizing each other up, good news arrived for Colo Colo from La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires: Boca, the group leader, was living up to expectations and extending their lead against Monagas, leaving the Venezuelan team one point behind the Chileans. Thus, the match entered a tense twenty minutes during which El Popular enclosed their opponent in their own box, while the latter settled for organized defense and searched for a counterattack that would secure the victory, which they later celebrated as a title: qualification to the next round of the prestigious Sudamericana tournament.

There will be no Chilean representatives in the competition anymore, as Ñublense suffered a comprehensive defeat in Argentina on Tuesday. Like Colo Colo, the Diablos Rojos de Chillán will have to settle for the Sudamericana.

Boca thrashes Monagas

Boca Juniors convincingly defeated Venezuelan team Monagas 4-0 on Thursday to secure the top spot in Group F. With goals from Marcelo Weigandt, young Valentín Barco – his first goal in his career – and a brace from Luis Vázquez, the ‘Xeneize’ triumphed at their home stadium, La Bombonera, reaching 13 points in the group. Meanwhile, the ‘Guerreros del Guarapiche’ bid farewell to their international campaign, finishing last in the standings with five points. The match ended with ten players on each side after the expulsions of Paraguayan Bruno Valdez (35th minute) for the home team and Panamanian Abdiel Arroyo (49th minute) for the visitors.

The match started with Boca dominating but failing to convert their advantage into goals due to excellent saves by goalkeeper Jorge Roa and the lack of accuracy from the Boca players in their finishing. In the 35th minute, Uruguayan referee Andrés Matonte showed a red card to Paraguayan Bruno Valdez for excessive complaints towards the referee, leaving Boca with ten players. However, four minutes later, a cross-shot from Martín Payero deflected off Marcelo Weigandt, giving Boca the lead.

With this result, they went into halftime, and in the 60th minute, Boca extended their lead with a superb combination between left-footed players: Colombian Frank Fabra and young Valentín Barco, who scored his first professional goal with his right foot. Already with a comfortable lead, Boca’s coach, Jorge Almirón, decided to bring in Luis Vázquez to try to break the forwards’ goal drought.

And the substitute delivered brilliantly. In the 85th minute, Vázquez received an assist from Esteban Rolón and, with a precise shot that Roa managed to touch but couldn’t stop, scored Boca’s third goal and his first personal goal. In the 88th minute, a pass from Juan Ramírez set up Luis Vázquez once again against Jorge Roa, and he finished it off near the right post, sealing Boca’s emphatic victory.

Following this win, Boca will now await the draw for the Copa Libertadores round of 16, while Monagas will shift their focus to the local tournament. In Group F, Pereira finished second with eight points, and Colo Colo finished third with six points after a goalless draw between the Colombian and Chilean teams in Santiago.

Corinthians Advances to the Sudamericana

Corinthians, eliminated from the Copa Libertadores but boosted by its young talents, secured the opportunity to compete in the qualifying round for a spot in the round of 16 of the Copa Sudamericana. They achieved this by defeating Liverpool 3-0 in the final match of the group stage. With Argentinos Juniors and Independiente del Valle already qualified in Group E, the team that would complete the round of 16 lineup in the Copa Sudamericana was yet to be determined. The leaders of the eight groups in that tournament directly advance to the round of 16. Corinthians emerged victorious with goals from Matheus Araújo (32nd minute), Felipe Augusto (64th minute), and Adson (80th minute).

Vanderlei Luxemburgo’s team showed ambition and will now fight for a spot in the Sudamericana round of 16 against one of the second-placed teams from that competition in a preliminary playoff. Uruguayan goalkeeper Sebastián Britos, one of the most demanded players during this Libertadores group stage, prevented a larger scoreline. Liverpool, who missed a penalty in the second half, bid farewell to the tournament finishing last with four points in six matches.

Both squads had different strategies. On one side, Corinthians took to the field at Neo Química Arena in Sao Paulo with a lineup full of substitutes. Luxemburgo’s priority is the Brazilian Championship, with the threat of relegation looming. On the other side, Liverpool featured two U-20 World Cup champions: Uruguayan players Luciano Rodríguez and Fabricio Díaz.

The start of the match was balanced, although Corinthians took the initiative first. Adson was the most dangerous player for the São Paulo team and the true protagonist of the match. Several threatening opportunities for the Brazilians were created by him. However, he repeatedly found a sensational Britos guarding the goal.

As the minutes passed, Liverpool began to feel more comfortable under the command of Gonzalo Nápoli. They started to accumulate chances, but just as it seemed they could take control of the match, Matheus Araújo scored. The young midfielder capitalized on the rebound from Wesley’s shot off the woodwork, which had already caused havoc among the opposing defense. Liverpool reacted, and just before halftime, the Montevideo-based team had a chance to equalize with a shot from Nápoli that was saved by Carlos Miguel, and Fabricio Díaz failed to convert the rebound.

In the second half, the São Paulo side came out with renewed energy. A offside call disallowed Giuliano’s goal, and another great save by Britos denied Felipe Augusto. The young forward would find the net shortly after in the most unexpected manner, almost accidentally, with his knee, following another rebound off the post that came after a fine individual action by Adson. Interestingly, the goal was heavily contested by Jorge Bava’s men, as one of their players was down on the field with apparent discomfort during the play.

The negriazul team had another chance to reduce the deficit through a penalty due to a handball by Giuliano. However, Carlos Miguel frustrated Betancourt’s attempt, and in the rebound, he deflected a point-blank shot from Martirena. Adson put the icing on the cake in the final minutes, taking advantage of a serious mistake by Izquierdo during a clearance. Corinthians regains its momentum.

Independiente del Valle Takes Leadership from Argentinos Juniors

Independiente del Valle claimed the top spot in Group E on Wednesday by defeating Argentinos Juniors 3-2, with the Argentine team finishing in second place and accompanying the Ecuadorian team to the knockout stages of the tournament. The victory allowed the ‘Negriazul’ to reach 12 points and snatch the first place in the group from ‘Bicho’, who finished with 11 points. Meanwhile, Corinthians will play in the Copa Sudamericana playoffs after finishing third with 7 points, ahead of the last-placed Uruguayan team Liverpool, who finished with 4 points.

On two occasions, Argentinos managed to equalize the match, but Independiente quickly reacted to both goals and regained the lead on the scoreboard. Independiente had control of the game and secured the three points with goals from Argentinians Lorenzo Faravelli in the 23rd minute and Lautaro Díaz in the 48th minute, as well as the decisive goal from Kevin Rodríguez in the 90th minute. Argentinos temporarily leveled the match with an own goal by Mateo Carabajal in stoppage time of the first half, and another goal from Leonardo Heredia in the 87th minute.

The match was a constant battle, but neither team had managed to create a clear scoring opportunity until Faravelli opened the scoring with one of the tournament’s great goals, connecting with a shot into the top corner from outside the box.

The visiting team was very imprecise in the final third, but just before halftime, they found an unexpected equalizer through an innocuous defensive clearance by Carabajal, which the Ecuadorian goalkeeper Alexis Villa failed to clear properly. Although Villa claimed a possible foul by the Argentine Francisco Martínez Metilli, the Colombian referee Wilmar Roldán validated the goal after reviewing it with VAR.

Argentinos’ joy didn’t last long, as Independiente del Valle regained the lead early in the second half with Díaz’s goal. He made up for his missed opportunity in the first half with an electric one-on-one finish, showing great composure.

In the final minutes, the visitors equalized again with Heredia’s goal, breaking the offside trap and finishing from a free-kick cross, in a well-executed set-piece play. However, once again, Independiente quickly reacted and broke the deadlock with Rodríguez’s goal, a subtle touch that secured the first place for the Ecuadorian side.

In added time, Argentinos ended the match with nine players due to the expulsions of Fabricio Domínguez, who brought down Kevin Rodríguez when he was about to face the opposing goal alone, and Santiago Montiel, who protested to the referee for an additional minute of play.

Racing Club Thrashes Ñublense…

Racing Club Dominates Ñublense with a 4-0 Victory in Copa Libertadores Group A

Racing Club achieved a resounding 4-0 victory over Chilean side Ñublense in the sixth and final matchday of Group A. The win secured Racing Club’s position as the group leader ahead of Flamengo, who also secured a 4-0 victory against Aucas from Ecuador. Paraguayan Matías Rojas (50th minute), Gabriel Hauche (54th minute), Aníbal Moreno (71st minute), and Gonzalo Piovi (86th minute) were the goal scorers for Racing Club, managed by Fernando Gago. With this result, Racing Club accumulated 13 points, two more than Flamengo, securing their place as leaders in the group. Ñublense finished third with five points, earning a spot in the Copa Sudamericana playoffs, while Aucas ended with four points.

Flamengo Cruises Past Aucas with a 4-0 Victory

Flamengo secured their spot in the round of 16 with a commanding 4-0 victory over Ecuadorian side Aucas in Rio de Janeiro. Striker Pedro, Léo Pereira, Víctor Hugo, and Bruno Henrique, who scored in his return to the field after a long injury recovery, sealed the victory for Flamengo.

Heading into the match, the Brazilian team, led by Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli, had their ticket to the next round almost guaranteed. They only needed to avoid defeat, as a victory for Chilean club Ñublense against Racing in Argentina would have eliminated Flamengo. However, Flamengo comfortably finished with eleven points in Group A, two points behind Racing Club from Argentina, who also achieved a 4-0 victory over Ñublense. Ñublense secured the third spot with five points and will participate in the Copa Sudamericana playoffs. Aucas, with their defeat in Rio de Janeiro, bid farewell to both South American club competitions with four points.

In front of 62,924 spectators and under the refereeing of Colombian Andrés Rojas, the fans at Maracanã started celebrating as early as the eighth minute. A solo effort from Wesley led to the ball falling to Uruguayan Giorgian de Arrascaeta, whose shot was deflected by the defense, allowing Pedro to score the opening goal. De Arrascaeta, Thiago Maia, and Bruno Henrique continued to create chances, putting pressure on Ecuadorian goalkeeper Hernán Galíndez.

Flamengo doubled their lead in the 29th minute from a corner kick taken by De Arrascaeta, with Léo Pereira heading the ball into the net. Without giving the visiting team a chance to react, Bruno Henrique scored the third goal in the 41st minute following a combination play involving Everton Ribeiro and Wesley.

The second half mirrored the first, and once again, in the 53rd minute, Víctor Hugo extended the lead with an assist from Pedro, with De Arrascaeta and Bruno Henrique involved in the build-up play. From that point on, the home team comfortably controlled the match, making substitutions, slowing the pace, and settling for the 4-0 scoreline, with no further response from the Quito-based team.

Nacional Advances to the Round of 16

Nacional secured their spot in the round of 16 on Wednesday after defeating Metropolitanos 1-0 in Montevideo, a result that placed them second in Group B. A stunning goal by Diego Polenta towards the end of the first half earned them three points and qualification under the guidance of Álvaro Gutiérrez. With this victory, the Uruguayan team reached a total of 11 points out of 18 in the standings, climbing to second place by surpassing Independiente Medellín. The Colombian team finished third with ten points, while Internacional added three points to their previous nine, securing the top position in the group.

Tricolor had to win at Gran Parque Central to ensure their place in the round of 16, and from the first minute, they set out to earn the three points that would secure one of the top two positions in Group B. However, before the first half-hour mark, the Uruguayan team realized that their chance of finishing first had completely vanished, as Internacional was already leading by a wide margin against Independiente Medellín in Brazil.

A powerful shot from Camilo Cándido that went wide and another from Gastón Pereiro that was well saved by goalkeeper Giancarlo Schiavone were Nacional’s first attempts as they pushed forward, driven by their supporters. Federico Martínez also came close with two good plays, while on the other side, they had to endure counterattacks led by wingers Darwin Gómez and Freddy Vargas.

Towards the end of the first half, central defender Polenta joined the attack from the back and left the opposing goalkeeper with no chance, scoring an impressive goal in the 40th minute to make it 1-0.

In the second half, Nacional dominated and came close to scoring a second goal with a header from Martínez that hit the left post. They also threatened with a one-on-one opportunity for Alfonso Trezza and a shot from Bruno Damiani, both of which were well dealt with by goalkeeper Schiavone.

The final whistle marked Nacional’s victory, securing their place among the top 16 teams on the continent in a tournament where they displayed great character, earning 5 of their 11 points with goals after the 90th minute in three out of their six matches.

Internacional Finishes First

On Wednesday, Internacional from Porto Alegre defeated Colombian team Independiente Medellín 3-1, clinching first place in Group E and advancing to the round of 16 of the tournament. Luiz Adriano, with two goals, and Maurício scored for the Colorado Gaúcho, who secured the top spot in the group with twelve points. The Colombian team, initially leading the group, finished third and will have to settle for participating in the playoffs of the Copa Sudamericana.

Just two minutes into the match, Rômulo recovered the ball and combined with Alan Patrick, who then set up Maurício to easily beat goalkeeper Andrés Mosquera Marmolejo.

Argentine player Luciano Pons and Edwuin Cetré attempted attacks for Medellín, but Luiz Adriano extended the lead in the 21st minute after a previous play involving Wanderson and Maurício. Five minutes later, without giving Medellín a chance to recover, Maurício once again assisted Luiz Adriano, who scored his second goal and the team’s third.

At the beginning of the second half, after an individual play by Cetré, Pons beat Vitão and scored a consolation goal for Medellín, reducing the deficit in the goal defended by John Víctor. The goal sparked a reaction from Inter, led by former national team coach Mano Menezes, who brought on Uruguayan Carlos de Pena for better control and creativity in their attacks. Newly-substituted Pedro Henrique also hit the crossbar in the 77th minute, posing a threat to the opponent’s goal, along with teammates Alan Patrick and Argentine Fabricio Bustos. However, the ball refused to go in again, and the score remained 3-1.

With this defeat, the team coached by Sebastián Botero will compete in the qualifying playoffs for the round of 16 of the Copa Sudamericana against one of the teams that finished second in the group stage of the other South American club tournament. The match, officiated by Argentine referee Facundo Tello, took place in front of around 40,000 spectators at the Beira-Rio stadium in Porto Alegre.