Palmeiras 3-1 Junior Barranquilla – Borja, Borja and Borja!

In the first out of a series of four consecutive games at the Allianz Parque, Palmeiras saw the first hat-trick being scored since the inauguration of the new stadium and secured the best campaign in the group stage of the 2018 Libertadores Cup. The best campaign in the group stage guarantees that the team will always have the advantage of playing the second leg of the remaining games at home.

Roger Machado chose to spare all of his regular players but Dudu and Borja. The alternative starting-eleven featured Prass; Mayke, Luan, Emerson Santos and Victor Luis; Thiago Santos, Tchê Tchê and Guerra; Dudu, Willian and Borja.

The atmosphere at the stadium was not the best. With a high ticket price and the alternative lie-up, the Allianz Parque saw its worst attendance so far in this year’s edition of the 2018 Continental cup: 25.787 supporters. Before kick-off, the ultras chanted against Roger Machado and Borja, but were booed by most other supporters.

The first half was so-so in regard to intensity. Palmeiras had a few good opportunities to score the opener, but it was Fernando Prass who really stood out with three brilliant saves to keep the scorecard clean. As the referee ended the first half, more boos from certain segments of the stadium.

In the second half, the game rapidly morphed into something completely different. As news reached Junior that Boca were beating Alianza Lima, only a victory against Palmieras would secure the Colombians a spot in the knockout phase. With Junior stepping up the offensive, spaces offered themselves to Palmeiras and opportunities soon materialized, Borja scoring the opener in the 6th minute.

Three minutes later, the referee awarded the visitors a dodgy penalty, made worse by the fact that Junior’s attacker also was offside. Fernando Prass not only saved the penalty, but also initiated a counter-attack that would have resulted in a tremendous goal, had not Junior’s keeper saved Borja’s volley.

However, in the 14th minute, Junior’s keeper was left hapless as Borja, again originating all the way back from Prass, received the ball from Willian to score his second for the night. Junior decreased Palmeiras’ lead in the 21st minute through an offside goal, but Borja was on fire and completed his hat-trick two minutes later giving final numbers to the game. Hyoran came on for Borja in the 26th minute, the Colombian striker receiving standing ovations from the whole stadium, except the ultras, the latter perhaps too thick to understand that Borja’s very discreet goal celebrations was not a message addressed to them, but a respectful gesture aimed at the club that Borja defended in his early career and still roots for.

The mood between club and supporters should improve after this convincing victory, not least when considering the alternative lineup. In his 30th game as head coach for Palmeiras, Roger Machado computed his 20th victory: a good record with every possibility to improve further, if only supporters are able to exercise some patience. Continuity is key to a victorious season, as Grêmio have already showed.

Palmeiras now turn their attention back to the Brazilian championship, where Bahia await, on Saturday, at the Allianz Parque, for the sixth round of the competition. Palmeiras are two points behind Flamengo, current board leader. Time to initiated that sprint that will ensure a prime position before the World Cup break.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

– – – ooo – – –
by Augusto Anteghini Oazi

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