In the second leg of the Libertadors semifinals, Palmeiras built a two-goal lead, only to succumb to Athletico’s pressure playing one man short for the entire second half. The 2-2 draw (2-3 on the aggregate) eliminated the Big Green from the Libertadores final, where most likely Flamengo await.
Missing out on a third consecutive Libertadores final hurts, as Palmeiras initiated yesterday’s game full throttle and opened the scorecard already in the third minute with Scarpa, beautifully assisted by Tabata and Zé Rafael. Palmeiras continued dominating the action and increasing the lead seemed only a matter of time, but then, at the very end of the first half, Murilo completely lost his timing and planted his studs on an opponent’s thigh. The referee pulled the yellow but was called by VAR and eventually changed his ruling to a straight red. One could only wish the VAR would have been equally zealous when Rony a few moments earlier received an elbow to the face while waiting for a corner to be taken: straight up aggression if you ever saw one.
Abel opted for sacrificing Bruno Tabata, promoting Luan to replace Murilo in centre lock. Palmeiras adapted well to the disadvantage in numbers and even increased the lead early in the second half through Gustavo Gómez, taking full advantage of Marcos Rocha’s monster throw-in to head the ball into the net.
Coach Scolari and his men did not panic. A few substitutions made Athletico even more offensive and the pressure gradually increased. Athletico scored in the 64th minute, making it 2-2 on the aggregate, and in the 86th a hapless Weverton could do nothing as a long-range shot deflected off Piquerez to die in the net.
Yesterday’s refereeing was subpar, with important decisions always going Athletico’s way. Nevertheless, in the last two decisive Libertadores games, Palmeiras players have been (rightly) sent off for rough play. In the end, we paid the ultimate price for our own mistakes.
As coach Abel always says: 24 hours to grieve or to celebrate, then the page must be turned. There are still 13 rounds in the Brazilian League ahead of us, and with a seven-point advantage, this is the title that would declare the 2022 season a success. Lock and load, and Avanti always!
Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!