As expected, Palmeiras’ incorrectly disallowed goal in the final seconds of the first leg made a difference. Actually, made all the difference. Palmeiras draw 1-1 with Cruzeiro in Belo Horizonte and were eliminated 2-1 on the aggregate.
Despite the need for a more offensive team, Felipão lined-up Palmeiras as usual: Weverton; Marcos Rocha, Antônio Carlos, Edu Dracena and Diogo Barbosa; Felipe Melo, Bruno Henrique (Guerra) and Moisés (Jean); Willian, Dudu and Borja (Deyverson).
The 90 minutes of the second leg mirrored perfectly the game at the Allianz Parque: Cruzeiro biding their time, well-positioned and cautious, awaiting opportunities to launch dangerous counter-attacks; Palmeiras seeking to exercise greater ball control, pressuring the opponent but struggling to create scoring opportunities.
Cruzeiro scored the opener with 27 minutes on the clock, in a similar fashion as in the first leg at the Allianz Parque: Diogo Barbosa (not Dudu this time) lost the ball on the offensive half, Palmeiras’ defensive line did not recover well and Barcos came face-to-face with Weverton, sending the ball to an open goal after dribbling the keeper. Palmeiras down 2-0 on the aggregate.
In halftime, Felipão promoted Deyverson and Guerra, sending Borja and Bruno Henrique to the bench. Hopes were renewed with the equaliser already in the 5th minute of the second half, Dudu taking a corner and Felipe Melo rising higher than everybody to head the ball home.
Palmeiras improved slightly in the second half, but not enough. Time ticked away and Cruzeiro skilfully fenced off the frustrated attempts to take the decision to a penalty shootout. With merit, Cruzeiro are in the finals. Never forgetting that the unjust result from the first leg proved decisive for the final outcome.
Time to pick up the pieces and move ahead. The Treble (Brazilian Championship, Cup and Libertadores) seemed unreal two months ago, but the dream grew stronger as Palmeiras progressed with Felipão’s arrival, improving in every aspect. From three to two, Palmeiras remain in excellent conditions to bag either the Brasileirão (one point behind leader São Paulo) or the Libertadores Cup (semi-finals spot almost secured) or both.
Palmeiras now return to São Paulo, where – believe it or not – Cruzeiro await on Sunday morning, at the Pacaembu stadium. A victory would propel Palmeiras to pole position and put additional pressure on São Paulo, who in Rio da Janeiro face Botafogo at 4pm.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi