After losing the final of the São Paulo state Championship to our biggest rivals, Palmeiras had to recover fast as the game against Boca could define the leadership of Group 8 in the Libertadores Cup. The 37.192 supporters present at the Allianz Parque were however treated to a boring game that reserved all its emotions to the last five minutes.
Roger Machado’s starting-eleven featured two alterations in comparison to the usual one: Keno and Diogo Barbosa replaced Willian and Victor Luiz respectively. The coach, opting to field faster players, probably imagined exploring spaces behind Boca Juniors’ full-backs.
With last Sunday’s scandalous external interference in fresh memory, supporters chanted against the Paulista Football Federation and the press corps before kick-off. The atmosphere was initially intense, but the lukewarm action of the first half, with teams unable to fire away a single, decent shot at goal, was disheartening. Palmeiras best chances were two crosses from the deep end, with no one inside the box to conclude.
Heading into the second half, not much changed. Palmeiras had a few goes from outside the box in the first minutes, but all shots were off-target. The first on-target came from Boca, in the 10th minute. Two minutes later Roger sent Willian to replace Borja, the Colombian on an unfortunate night.
With the substitution, Palmeiras improved their game, but not sufficiently to actually threaten Rossi’s target. The best opportunity came in the 37th minute, with Moisés and Guerra already on the pitch (they replaced Lucas Lima and Bruno Henrique, respectively). Keno dribbled four players on the left wing and cut the ball back to Willian. Moisés was free to receive the ball and score, but Willian turned and took the shot himself, deflected by Boca’s defenders.
Everything indicated a goalless draw, but in the 44th minute, a Boca defender lost the ball to Guerra in a bizarre move. The Venezuelan midfielder crossed the ball beautifully, Keno concluding inside the box like a true centre-forward. Supporters celebrated, confident in a third victory in the Libertadores Cup, the game almost at its end. Perhaps feeling sorry for the Boca defender, Antônio Carlos two minute later had his bizarre moment, allowing Pavón to venture into the deep end and cut back to Tévez to tie the game. Palmeiras came close to a perfect Libertadores’ style victory, but lacked the experience to refrain Boca from effective play during injury time.
We arrive at the end of our first difficult sequence of the year with a reasonable result: a title stolen from us and pole position in our Libertadores group, having still not lost a single game in the competition. Upcoming Monday sees Palmeiras’ debut for the Brasileirão 2018 against Botafogo and this is a championship were regularity brings the trophy home. Roger Machado cannot repeat coach Cuca’s mistake of last year, prioritizing the cups: all competitions are equally important to the sequence of his work, the squad’s development and the future of Palmeiras.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi