Palmeiras’ debut in the 2019 Libertadores Cup was rather similar to last year’s. Same opponent, same stadium and, if not by one goal short, the same result. The victory left Palmeiras in the top position of the group, as the match between the other two teams of Group F – Melgar and San Lorenzo – ended in a draw.
The biggest doubt ahead of the clash with the Colombians was if Gustavo Scarpa would recover in time, and so he did, Palmeiras’ starting eleven composed of Weverton; Marcos Rocha, Antônio Carlos, Gustavo Gómez and Victor Luís; Felipe Melo, Bruno Henrique and Ricardo Goulart; Scarpa, Dudu and Borja.
Despite the atmosphere at the Roberto Meléndez Stadium and the momentum of the home team – unbeaten in the local championship after the initial 8 rounds – Palmeiras soon took control of the game, suffocating Junior Barranquilla on their defensive half.
The result of this intense pressure came early: in the 10th minute, Dudu found Scarpa sprinting into the box behind the defenders and he did not miss the opportunity to score the opener.
The early goal allowed Palmeiras to reduce the pressure and wait for spaces to counter attack. Junior was unsuccessful in trying to penetrate through Palmeiras’ defensive line and the only good opportunity to equalise came on a free kick taken by their goalkeeper that Weverton saved brilliantly.
Back to the second half, Felipão was not able to solve a problem that was visible in the last 15 minutes of the first half: Junior’s players were easily passing the ball around Palmeiras’ intermediate. Nevertheless, our opponent was not actually creating anything dangerous. Weverton continued to enjoy his evening in relative tranquillity.
The best opportunity was Palmeiras’, with the goalkeeper saving a face-to-face opportunity against Borja in the 60th minute. In the 73rd minute, another save by Viera, this time deflecting a long-range shot from Scarpa.
In the 75th minute, Téo Gutiérrez was sent off due to a second yellow card, making Palmeiras’ life easier. However, our men in green did not seize the one-man advantage to cool down the game and continued allowing Barranquilla some opportunities.
Thankfully, a final blow was delivered, and on injury time, as Marcos Rocha initiated a counter-attack, passing the ball to Borja, who sprinted towards the goal and waited for the arrival of Rocha to return the ball for the fullback to score Palmeiras’ second goal.
The result was excellent. It is always difficult to compute an away win in the Libertadores Cup and Junior is on paper the best opponent in the group stage. Still, the performance could have been better. Ricardo Goulart was almost invisible and besides the assist to the first goal, Dudu level of inspiration was so-so.
Palmeiras’ next game for the Libertadores Cup is next Tuesday, against Melgar, at the Allianz Parque. Melgar is probably the weakest team in the group, never having advanced far in any of their previous five Libertadores editions. The expected outcome is a victory. Let´s hope for not only that, but a convincing one as well.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi