Our progression to the quarterfinals was considered a done deal, nobody was expecting Cerro Porteño to put Palmeiras on the verge of a catastrophe like River Plate did in the semifinals of 2020 after losing 3-0 at home in the first leg. And that expectation was correct.
Seizing the advantage built in the first leg to rest some players, Abel promoted Rafael Navarro, Gabriel Menino and Wesley in the starting eleven. Initially, Palmeiras struggled to create opportunities, mainly due to Navarro not holding on to the ball nor opening up spaces.
When Navarro was subbed in the 34th minute due to injury, it was like putting oil into a machine to lubricate it. With Rony up front, Palmeiras immediately started to threaten Cerro’s target, opening the scorecard three minutes later through an own goal by Braian Samudio.
The 1-0 knocked Cerro Porteño out, and it seemed as if Palmeiras would play the second half only waiting for the final whistle. Then, with some 20 minutes to go, something snapped, the game suddenly got intense, and when Palmeiras switched gear, a ten-minute scoring spree initiated: Rony, Breno Lopes, Gustavo Gómez, and suddenly the scorecard read 4-0. Fantastic. But the best was yet to come.
Breno Lopes carried the ball on the right wing and lobbed it into the area. As on cue, supporters at the Allianz Parque anticipated the action, standing up and letting out a cry of excitement as Rony positioned himself, got airborne and executed the bicycle kick he has unsuccessfully been trying in practically each of his appearances this season. From his right foot into the top left corner of the wooden frame and there it was: Ronielson’s bicycle goal finally happened! Epic!
With yesterday’s brace, Rony opened a distance to the runner-up Raphael Veiga as Palmeiras’ top scorer in Libertadores history, with 18 goals scored. He is also tied with Rafael Navarro and Flamengo’s Pedro as top scorer in the current edition of the tournament, with seven goals.
Palmeiras’ winning run in the Libertadores now stands at nine consecutive games, making it the biggest winning streak in the tournament’s history. The team also increased its unbeaten run to 16 games (W13, D3), the longest the Big Green has ever gone without losing in the tournament.
Again, there is nothing to do but celebrate the unique moment Palmeiras are going through. Five consecutive Libertadores quarterfinals is a tremendous feat. Now, rest assured the path ahead will be very challenging, with Atlético Mineiro keen to revenge yesteryear’s elimination. Abel and his men better be prepared to make history once again!
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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by Augusto Anteghini Oazi & Kristian Bengtson