Palmeiras have arrived to the middle of their most difficult sequence until now in 2018: two legs of the Paulistão final and two Libertadores Cup games. So far, so good. After a tense derby against Corinthians last Saturday, players recovered well and guaranteed the second victory in the Cup’s group phase swimmingly.
Backed by the medical department, coach Machado opted for sparing only the players that really have been stretching their physical limits: Marcos Rocha, Victor Luiz and Bruno Henrique. These were replaced by Mayke, Diogo Barbosa and Moisés, respectively. Fielding so many regulars ahead of Sunday’s important decision was a calculated risk, but the right choice: no player injured and three points in the bag.
The game started with Palmeiras pressing for an early goal, which has become a trademark of Roger Machado’s team. The intensity paid off already in the 10th minute: Dudu took a free kick from the left and Antônio Carlos header hit the post. On the rebound, Thiago Martins with an open goal, scoring his first of the year.
The heat was kept on. In the 15th minute, a one-two between Dudu and Borja left the winger in position to conclude, but a Peruvian defender blocked the shot. Three minutes later, Dudu crossed from the right, the goalkeeper failed to catch the ball and Borja almost scored the second one: the ball hit the left post. The Colombian forward had another chance one minute later, but after dribbling the keeper, he had no angle to conclude the move.
Palmeiras pressure was massive, but the second goal did not happen in the first half. This did not upset supporters, as Alianza Lima created no opportunities to level the scorecard, Jailson a mere spectator of the game.
Back on the pitch for the second half, Palmeiras scored before the first minute was complete. Keno skillfully progressed with the ball to the deep end and opted for a low cross that the keeper tried and failed to intercept. Borja was unforgiving and slammed the ball high into the back of the net.
Still in the early minutes, Palmeiras almost scored the third but Prieto saved the hard shot from Dudu. In the 10th minute, some supporters let out a celebration roar, only to realize Borja’s shot had hit the outside of the net.
In the 13th and in the 16th minute, Alianza Lima took two shots, off-target. In the 29th minute, Roger Machado made his first subs: Lucas Lima and Borja went out and Guerra and Deyverson came on.
Palmeiras’ players slowed the rhythm. The 30.456 at the Allianz Parque, sensing the result was guaranteed, started singing “It’s on the 8th”, a reference to upcoming Sunday’s title match against Corinthians.
In the 36th minute, Alianza’s came close as Cruzado’s free kick brushed Jailson’s right post. In the 42nd minute, Keno took a shot from outside the box, forcing Prieto to work. Three minutes later, the referee failed to award a clear penalty as Deyverson was rather brutally clipped inside the box. Palmeiras robbed of that one.
The result isolates Palmeiras in first position of the group, with six points. A victory against Boca Juniors next Wednesday would practically classify Palmeiras to the knockout round. Not that anyone cares for Boca Juniors at this stage: all attention now goes into Sunday’s derby. A draw is all it takes for Palmeiras to bag their 23rd Paulistão trophy.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi