Atlético Mineiro 2-2 Palmeiras – knocked out, bounced back!

Supporters always believe in the impossible. It’s in our nature. For example, in 2013, we believed that a team playing in the second division of the Brazilian league would win the Libertadores Cup. No such luck. The impossible is of course never the norm, the impossible very seldom happens. Unless we’re talking Palmeiras under Abel Ferreira, a team seemingly committed to the impossible.

Our players have created a sense of perseverance only seen in historic sides. When everybody thinks “that’s it, someone was able to knock this Palmeiras down”, our players bounce back to show differently.

Yesterday, Atlético Mineiro surprised Palmeiras in the first half with an intensity they hadn’t showed so far this season. The uninspiring night of our players also helped Atlético to pile up opportunities, all wasted, to open the scorecard at the Mineirão Stadium.

Going to the interval with the scorecard untouched would have been a small miracle, but Marcos Rocha tripped Jair inside the box in the last minute of the first half and Hulk converted the penalty, redeeming himself for last year’s penalty that he slammed into the woodwork.

The teams back for the second half, not enough time was provided to see if any changes provoked by Abel would improve Palmeiras: Atlético Mineiro increased their lead within two minutes, a cross that deflected off Murilo and died in the net.

There was no reason to believe Palmeiras would improve the scorecard and make the second leg a somewhat more open affair. On the contrary: the feeling was that Atlético would eliminate the current champions already in the first leg with an resounding victory. But Palmeiras haven’t won two consecutive Libertadores by chance.

Atlético’s intensity during 60 minutes started to take its toll, and Palmeiras little by little moved up their positions. Murilo scored in the 59th minute, decreasing Atlético’s lead. To most palmeirenses, a 2-1 defeat was already a great comeback, a window of hope mirroring next Wednesday’s return game. But Abel wanted more. Palmeiras wanted more. Supporters, deep inside, wanted and believed in more.

Murilo’s goal changed the momentum of the game in favour of Palmeiras. Soon, chances to draw the game materialized. Dudu blew two very clear opportunities, but his redemption was about to come. On stoppage time, Gustavo Scarpa took a corner to the outer post, Dudu sprinted from far out, dived to head the ball back towards the middle of the box, where Danilo pushed it to the back of the net.

The 2-2 makes the return game start leveled. Or rather, not so leveled: Atlético will come to the second leg hit by having lost a two goal home advantage, while at the Allianz Parque, 40.000 palmeirenses will propel the team to another Libertadores semi-final.

The draw extends Palmeiras’ record unbeaten run playing away in the Libertadores to 20 games (W14 D6). The team remains unbeaten in the 2022 season of the tournament (W8 D1) and Abel remains undefeated against Cuca in the continental competition (W1 D3).

The celebration of another historic night in our history will continue until Sunday, when Palmeiras face Goiás for the Brasileirão, seeking to maintain the lead while preparing for the return leg against Atlético Mineiro.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

– – – ooo – – –
by Augusto Anteghini Oazi & Kristian Bengtson

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