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At La Bombonera, packed with close to fifty thousand Boca Juniors supporters, Palmeiras pulled off a perfect exhibition to assure a spot in the knockout phase of the Libertadores Cup. The victory was Palmeiras’ first at the legendary home grounds of Boca, and only four other Brazilian teams have previously managed the feat. This was also the first time in history that a foreign team beat Boca at La Bombonera by a difference of more than one goal. Epic!

Roger Machado lined up the same starting-eleven as against Internacional last Sunday and Palmeiras started the game better than Boca Juniors. With just one minute on the clock, Keno put pressure on Boca’s keeper, who tried to clear the ball but slammed it into the back of our winger, the ball bouncing back just wide of the goalpost. Two minutes later, Dudu took a shot from outside the box, but missed the target.

Palmeiras’ rhythm slowed down after the initial 10 minutes and Boca grew more confident, creating their first opportunities. The script was set: ball to Pavón on the left, and leave it up to him to create havoc. In the 11th minute, he dribbled Marcos Rocha, but Jailson blocked the shot. In the 22th minute, he took a free kick and hit Jailson’s upper bar.

At this point, the pressure was intense and it started to look like a matter of time before Palmeiras would succumb. However, the Big Green rode out the storm and then, in the 39th minute, Marcos Rocha crossed the ball from the right and found Keno free inside the box, by the far post. The winger headed it firmly, out of the reach of the keeper, to open the score for Palmeiras.

The minutes that followed until the end of the first half were nightmarish, Palmeiras truly suffering as Boca launched a major offensive. In the 40th minute, Ábila lost an unbelievable, open-goal opportunity. And in the 44th minute, he scored. On both of the opportunities he was offside, the goal correctly annulled.

No substitution in halftime for Palmeiras, and the first opportunities of the second half were again the visitors’. In the first minute, Lucas Lima received a heavy challenge from Magallan just outside the box and the free kick was awarded; the challenge should have rendered a yellow card as well, the defender’s second and an early exit to the showers, but our players’ protest left the referee unimpressed. Lucas Lima took the shot, surprising the keeper by sending the ball below the jumping barrier, but off target.

In the seventh minute, Dudu passed the ball to Keno to start a counter-attack. The winger aimed for Lucas Lima inside the box, but a Boca defender courageously intercepted it in the last moment, almost scoring an own goal.

Boca’s better opportunities were shots from outside the box, narrowly missing the target. The best one came with 15 on the clock, a shot from Pavón from the left, Jailson stretching to his absolute limits to brilliantly save Palmeiras from the equalizer.

In the 21th minute, the game-defining moment: Keno aimed a long ball at Dudu, Rossi leaving the goal to punch the ball clear, only partially successful. The ball offered itself to Willian, the keeper still outside the box, but our forward’s strike was blocked by Boca defenders. A second attempt was Lucas Lima’s, again blocked. On the third try, our midfielder brilliantly volleyed the ball above all Boca players and the keeper to score Palmeiras’ second.

Trailing 2-0, Boca went all attack, giving Palmeiras more space to counter-attack. The Argentinians scored through Tévez but, once again, we had a correctly awarded offside. Only on injury time did Boca threaten Palmeiras again, Jailson blocking Ábila’s shot. Seems like our players have learnt from previous mistakes, this time successfully controlling the game until the final whistle.
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With this historic victory, Palmeiras head the group at 10 points and are mathematically classified to the next phase of the tournament. The objective now is sum as many point as possible in the remaining two games, in order to secure that Palmeiras, in the knockout phase to follow, always have the second leg home advantage. The victory was of paramount important for players and supporters to regain confidence: the perfect response to the doubts and criticisms of last couple of weeks.

Palmeiras now turn their attention back to the Brazilian championship, where Chapecoense await, on Sunday, at the Allianz Parque, valid for the third round.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

– – – ooo – – – 
by Augusto Anteghini Oazi
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*photo credits: Cesar Greco

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Palmeiras are little by little unloading dead weight in the squad. Midfielder Régis never progressed and has been returned to Sport. Today, fullback Leandro Almeida signed with Internacional, on loan, for the rest of the season. Every palmeirense jumping with joy, no irony.

tobioThe future of Fernando Tobio remains uncertain. In 2015, after losing space in the squad and facing personal issues, Tobio made clear his desire to leave, more or less forcing a transfer to Boca Juniors. His time now up at the Argentine club, Boca initially announced they would not evoke their right to purchase. As a return to Palmeiras was practically ruled out, negotiations with Flamengo started. Yesterday the Rio de Janeiro club announced they had instead opted for Réver, from Internacional. This explains [sic] why Inter went after Leandro Almeida. Full circle, with Tobio as bystander and his contract with Palmeiras running until end of 2019. However, rumours yesterday claim Boca have changed their mind and are signing Tobio for three years, liberating him from Palmeiras at a US$ 2,7 million price tag.

The supposedly promising Chilean midfielder Arancibia, by some dubbed “the new Valdivia”, did not see his contract renewed with Palmeiras. Youth division manager Sampaio says there has been an accelerated development among players competing for the same position, like Arthur and Kauê, making Arancibia superfluous. The Chilean arrived at Palmeiras in April 2015, suffered a series of injuries and never caused much of an impression.

Midfielder Arouca had an arthroscopy last week, treating a minor knee condition. Expectations are for a speedy recovery. Check out his message to fans on social media, with a picture of him undergoing the procedure.

Alecsandro-3Palmeiras yesterday confirmed that a urine sample from striker Alecsandro, collected on 3 April after the 1-0 victory against Corinthians for the São Paulo championship, tested positive for steroids. A second test will be conducted early next week. More info to follow.

Palmeiras finished the U17 World Club championship as runner-up to Real Madrid, the title being decided in a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw at full time. Our young players were very close to the title, conceding the draw only a few minutes from stoppage time. Nevertheless, a splendid campaign, showing Palmeiras’ relatively recent investments in the youth divisions are paying off.
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The organised supporter group Mancha Verde has announced it is expelling nine members, identified as participants in last Sunday’s violent outbreak at the Mané Garrincha stadium in Brasilia, where Palmeiras beat Flamengo 1-2. The Mancha also say they will cooperate with the police. Both these acts are nothing short of a mini-revolution if considering the organisation’s track record. Let us hope this is the beginning of a new Mancha Verde.

Also Palmeiras are cooperating with the police, having identified 17 of the troublemakers as Avanti members and excluded them from the supporter programme. In addition, Palmeiras are studying the possibility to take these supporters to court for “dishonouring the name of the club” and possibly inflicting punishment on Palmeiras from authorities.

The strained relationship between Palmeiras and Allianz Parque constructor/manager WTorre reached new heights as the “partner” announced Palmeiras would not have access to the stadium on yet another home game, as on that date it would be used for a screening of the movie “Independence Day: Resurgence”.

The contract between Palmeiras and WTorre is a very sad piece of work: Palmeiras have no means of vetoing dates and events as long as WTorre pays a specific fine (which, by the way, the construction company has failed to do). Still, frustration felt by Palmeiras supporters have been somewhat “under control” due to class acts like Iron Maiden, Katy Perry and Paul McCartney being the cause for Palmeiras having to play elsewhere. Now, expel Palmeiras in order to promote a movie screening?! Supporters went nuts when they learnt about this and within hours, campaigns were drawn up to put pressure on the organisers. The protests soon escalated to a promise: go through with the plans, and we will sabotage your event, making more noise around and inside the stadium than you could possibly imagine.

I am absolutely convinced our supporters would have won this tug-a-war, but we will never know: the Brazilian Football Federation accepted Palmeiras’ request and anticipated the date of the game, avoiding a clash.

Now, that was yesterday. Today supporters learnt that yet another event is planned, exactly on the date Palmeiras would receive Santos, this time in order to conduct a religious service on the premises. The “ThereWillBeNoSceening” hashtag was quickly replaced with a “ThereWillBeNoService” equivalent, climbing the ranks in no time. The message seems clear enough: no third party event at the Allianz Parque will be peaceful unless conceived in harmony with Palmeiras and Palmeiras’ supporters.

As you notice, a week full of excitement, the major one still ahead of us: Sunday’s derby. Why not raise the adrenaline level a notch or two? It is easy to place a bet, you know…

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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