Despite suffering less pressure than in the group stage game at La Bombonera, when Palmeiras beat Boca 2-0, the outcome of the first leg of the Libertadores Cup semifinal proved a huge disappointment.
Felipão put out a strong starting-eleven: Weverton; Mayke, Luan, Gustavo Gómez and Diogo Barbosa; Bruno Henrique, Felipe Melo and Moisés; Dudu, Willian and Borja. The one thing to contest, especially in hindsight, was Felipão’s decision to keep Lucas Lima on the bench.
For 80 minutes, we had a solid 0-0 if you ever saw one. None of the sides created opportunities and Palmeiras’ objective was clearly to neutralize the pressure that Boca would exercise playing at home, which was successfully accomplished. Unfortunately, our attacking trio had an uninspired evening, wasting the few opportunities to counter-attack. Bruno Henrique and Moisés added little to the offensive drive. Borja received hardly anything to work with.
Dudu took a dangerous shot in the 68th minute, firing away just wide of the left post, and in the following minutes, Boca seemed a bit rattled. However, in the 80th minute, a sequence of errors: Felipe Melo, having an otherwise great night, committed an unnecessary foul in front of the box; Olaza took the free kick and Weverton had to stretch to his limits to perform a fabulous save. On the corner kick that followed, an unchallenged Benedetto – with few minutes on the pitch – was allowed the header to open the score.
A 1-0 defeat wouldn’t have been such a bad result, but this was Darío Benedetto’s night. Four minutes later, he received a pass, beautifully deceiving Luan while turning and shooting from outside the box, powerfully drilling the ball past Weverton to settle the final score.
With the 2-0 disadvantage, classification to the Libertadores Cup final got considerable harder, but not impossible. In 1999, the year of our title, Palmeiras lost the first leg of the semi-final 1-0 to River Plate. In the second leg, at the Palestra Italia, a 3-0 victory took the team to the final. Palmeiras have the tools to reverse the score and can count on the full support of a packed Allianz Parque on Wednesday. However, not conceiving will be a major challenge: a Boca away goal would force Palmeiras to score another four.
That being said: Boca is for later. Already this Saturday Palmeiras have a very important Brazil League game, away against current runners-up Flamengo. A victory would increase the gap between the teams to 7 points, practically removing the cariocas as title contenders and putting Palmeiras in a very comfortable position to bag the Brasileirão for the tenth time in history. Ladies and gentlemen, the moment of truth has arrived.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi & Kristian Bengtson