Confirming expectations, San Lorenzo proved the tougher opponent in the group stage of the Libertadores Cup, inflicting upon Palmeiras the first defeat in this year’s edition.
Without Ricardo Goulart and Gustavo Scarpa, Palmeiras’ starting-eleven was composed of Weverton; Marcos Rocha, Antônio Carlos, Gustavo Gómez and Diogo Barbosa; Thiago Santos (Felipe Melo), Bruno Henrique (Lucas Lima) and Moisés; Felipe Pires (Raphael Veiga), Dudu and Deyverson.
In the first minutes, Palmeiras tried to suffocate San Lorenzo on their own half, as against Junior Barranquilla. The pressure resulted in some turnovers near the opponent’s goal, but without clear opportunities to score.
In the 18th minute, San Lorenzo hit Weverton’s right post. Palmeiras responded in the 25th minute with Moisés hitting the crossbar through a bicycle kick after having adjusted the ball with his chest; had the ball found the back of the net, we would have witnessed Palmeiras’ most beautiful goal in years.
Palmeiras ended the first half with more opportunities to break the deadlock than San Lorenzo, but saw both defensive midfielders penalized with yellow cards due to fouls to stop counter-attacks from the Argentines.
Fearing having players sent off, Felipão in halftime replaced Thiago Santos and Bruno Henrique with Felipe Melo and Lucas Lima. Theoretically, Palmeiras would improve technically and exercise more ball possession, but the substitutes were not on a good night and contributed significantly to the team’s drastic decline in performance.
In the 50th minute, Herrera carried the ball from the right wing to the front of the box with uncommon easiness and was allowed the time to stop, lift his head, consider his options then fire a medium-range shot that drilled into Weverton’s right corner to open the scorecard.
Chasing the equaliser, Palmeiras insisted on long balls and long throws, to little effect. Dudu seemed rather uninspired and Felipão was unable to find alternatives that could surpass San Lorenzo’s defensive line. The last 30 minutes were of the kind we’ve learnt to recognise: even if you multiply minutes by 10 you just know Palmeiras will not score.
The defeat pushed Palmeiras to second place in group F, as San Lorenzo overtook by a one-point margin. The next Libertadores game is on 10 April, against Junior Barranquilla, at the Allianz Parque. Palmeiras are still in a good position to secure a spot in the knockout stage.
The team will now return to São Paulo for rest and training ahead of Sunday’s Paulista semifinals decisive clash at the Allianz Parque against São Paulo. A draw takes the decision to penalty shootouts. In the final, Corinthians or Santos await.
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi & Kristian Bengtson