Thank God Palmeiras have found the path back to victory! As happens every time, the defeated team from the derby had a difficult week: Jailson’s mother on a polemic television show, Dudu’s agent speaking bullsh*t, the ultras demanding results and the usual provocations from the press.
Palmeiras flew away from all this turmoil to play at the Roberto Meléndez in Barranquila, the biggest stadium in Colombia. While the green side were debuting in the 2018 Copa Libertadores, Junior had come through two preliminary eliminatory rounds to secure their spot in the group stage.
Roger Machado made some changes to the squad, promoting Bruno Henrique and Victor Luiz to the starting eleven. With the game underway, initial impression was that Junior were going to create chances until finding their first goal: Jailson brilliantly saved a face-to-face from Jonatan Alvez in the 6th minute and just one minute later, Palmeiras’ keeper had to work again, this time fencing off a shot from Chará. However, Junior’s pressure diminished considerably after their left-back Germán Gutierréz was sent off due to an assault on Bruno Henrique, studs in chest.
The numerical advantage, at such an early stage of the game, naturally cleared the way for Palmeiras. In the 18th minute, Dudu found Bruno Henrique clean inside the box to fire a beautiful shot and open the score. This was all that the Big Green managed in the first half. With many incomplete passes and bad decisions from Machado’s players, Junior almost equalized the score on two occasions before the whistle.
During the halftime break, Roger Machado probably instructed his men to calm down when in possession of the ball. Palmeiras came on with the same players for the second half, but with a different attitude, which produced an early goal for Palmeiras: Borja scored with 6 minutes on the clock, a great volley following a blocked shot from Lucas Lima.
With the two-goal advantage, Palmeiras played even more patiently. After a short corner in the 26th minute, Guerra, that earlier had come on for Lucas Lima, found man-of-the-match Bruno Henrique in the penalty box, who skilfully scored his second to close the scorecard 3-0.
We could have easily seen more balls scooped out of the net, though. Thiago Santos missed an open goal to make it 4-0. And in the 40th minute, the Colombians were denied a consolation goal when Jonatan Alvez sent a penalty kick up the stands. Minutes later, Jailson made another brilliant save when Alvez, always Alvez, again came face-to-face.
Despite the very positive score, 3-0 away, Palmeiras did not play particularly well, especially considering Junior were one man short for 80 minutes. Roger Machado certainly felt the same, intensively gesticulating and yelling to his players throughout the whole match.
The other match in Group 8, Alianza Lima vs Boca Juniors, was a goalless tie. Thus, Palmeiras will rest in top position at least until 4 April, when Alianza Lima come visiting at the Allianz Parque.
The Verdão now turn their attention back to the São Paulo state Championship, where they on Monday face São Caetano, at home, to secure a spot in the quarterfinals.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi