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Conmebol’s Disciplinary Committee has made public its ruling on the scandalous events following the Peñarol vs Palmeiras Libertadores Cup game. As previously reported, Felipe Melo received a six-game ban, while three Peñarol players received five games each. In addition, Peñarol must play their last home game before an empty stadium: a slap with a silk glove, as the Uruguayans are already eliminated from the tournament. Palmeiras on the other hand was sentenced to three away games without supporters, meaning that only in the case of advancing to the finals, palmeirenses will be present.

Palmeiras promptly issued a formal statement, which you find below, in a free translation.

“In view of the disclosure of Conmebol’s ruling on the incidents related to the match against Peñarol, the Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras hereby announce that:

1 – The feeling is one of total indignation and revolt for the lack of criteria in Conmebol´s application of penalties for the two clubs and their athletes.

2 – It is on the verge of mockery that Peñarol, the club responsible for the safety of the match and the one who did not fulfill its function, receives a penalty lower than that of Palmeiras. Palmeiras, both team and supporters, being the victim of an evident ambush, in addition to other crimes. It is worth remembering that, in spite of the tense atmosphere during the first leg against Peñarol, safety at the Allianz Parque was guaranteed by nearly 600 professionals, able to avoid any kind of incident. This contrasts to the tiny and unprepared group of 60 private security guards hired by the Uruguayan club for the second leg.

3 – The Conmebol Disciplinary Committee has short-sightedly preferred to base its evaluation on the consequences and not on the causes of events.

4 – Palmeiras reiterates what the club has sustained from the first moment, at the stadium in Montevideo: the club and its players were victims and not causers of the incidents after the game. We proved to Conmebol, through a vast selection of videos, photos and testimonies, what really happened in that game. By the outcome of the ruling, it seems technical criteria were not taken into account, which is completely inadmissible and inconsistent. It is unacceptable that a Palmeiras athlete be punished for defending himself against a clear attempt of aggression and that supporters – clearly cornered, attacked and the target of racist manifestations – are now prevented from following the team through the competition.

5 – Palmeiras’ Legal Department is preparing an appeal, contesting the penalties applied to player Felipe Melo and the club. The appeal will be brought before the Conmebol in the coming week.

6 – The Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras will seek justice. The club does not accept any other position of Conmebol’s Disciplinary Committee but a revision of its decision and a ruling solely based on technical criteria.”

Needless to say, supporters are wholeheartedly behind the club on this one. Many hold the opinion Palmeiras must withdraw from the tournament should Conmebol maintain its ruling.

For Palmeiras’ upcoming last game in the group stage on Wednesday, at home against Atlético Tucumán, a silent protest against Conmebol is planned. During the National Hymn, supporters on the stands will raise their arms towards the sky in the same manner Felipe Melo did after the final whistle against Peñarol. In the same manner he does after almost every game. In the same manner now labelled “a provocative gesture” by the referees and Conmebol, a gesture they argue sparked the violence.

Anything Palmeiras strongly urge everyone to adhere to the protest on Wednesday.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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medals.
Shoulder to shoulder, back to back. That’s how Palmeiras’ troop of security paved its way through the crowds to brake the hinges of the locked gate hindering our players to exit the feverishly hostile Campeón del Siglo stadium after the game against Peñarol. 

Their decisive action possibly saved lives. In recognition of their crucial intervention, Palmeiras president Mauricio Galiotte last Sunday, during the halftime break against Vasco, pinned a medal to the chest of each of the 20.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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The additional wide-angle video footage that have surfaced in the last couple of days shows that Palmeiras were the victim of an outright assault at the Campeón del Siglo stadium, Montevideo. It all starts seconds before the final whistle, Willian going down after receiving a punch to the face, from behind, inside the penalty box. At the final whistle, Felipe Melo raises his arms towards the sky in his characteristic “thank-you” prass_attackedgesture, while several Peñarol players approach him, starts tugging (Melo still with his arms raised, defensively) then initiate a chase. Meanwhile, keeper Fernando Prass (pictured) tries to defend himself from a series of kicks and punches from three Peñarol players. As the debacle unfolds, now generalised, we see invading Peñarol supporters participating and, I kid you not, Uruguayan press (there is video footage of a photographer hitting Felipe Melo with what seems to be his tripod).

Yesterday morning, Palmeiras lawyer Leonardo Holanda personally handed in documents and video evidence at the Conmebol headquarters in Asunción, Paraguay. Piece of cake, right. Think again.

Awaiting trial, Conmebol has preventively suspended four players for three games: Palmeiras’ Felipe Melo and Peñarol players Nández, Mier and Lucas Hernandez. For starters, none of these was responsible for knocking out Willian.

Worse, the official reports from the referee and the Conmebol delegate state that the ruckus started when Felipe Melo, facing the Peñarol bench, made a gesture towards the sky, provoking a reaction from Peñarol players before mutual punches were thrown. The reports imply that “had it not been for Melo…”

On the day, Peñarol’s president stated he had ordered the gates closed out of concern for security (for whom? certainly not for Palmeiras players and staff left isolated on the pitch to face the rage of the crowds). The other day, Conmebol claimed THEY ordered the gates closed.

The signals are extremely worrying. Seems Conmebol will spare little effort to, at least partially, blame Palmeiras for the events in Montevideo. Absurd? Yes, but not that surprising, considering the entity’s stance on previous occasions involving Brazilian clubs and any other Spanish-speaking neighbours.

Considering the above, it is even sadder to register the deafening silence from the Brazilian Football Confederation. Add to that the silence from other Brazilian clubs and the overall lack of support from Brazilian sports journalists.

Seldom has it come through more clearly: we are on our own.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Act 1 – The Game
Freshly eliminated from the Paulistão and with coach Eduardo Baptista under pressure, Palmeiras travelled to Montevideo without Dudu, suspended, to face Peñarol. The away game promised to be every bit as tough as the home game in mid-April, the Uruguayans having already shown their nastier side. However, not their nastiest.

Baptista tried to surprise Peñarol by using the same formation as against Ponte Preta the other week: a 3-5-2, this time with Vítor Hugo operating to the left, Dracena centred and Mina to the right. Promoting Vítor Hugo back into the line-up, Baptista hoped to add both speed and superior aerial cover, both offensively but in particular defensively. He rested Tchê Tchê, populating the midfield with Felipe Melo, Guerra, and Michel Bastos. Jean and Egídio on the flanks, Roger Guedes and Borja up front.

Baptista’s battleplan failed miserably. Although the 3-5-2 turned into a 5-4-1 when pressured, Palmeiras were still unable to stop the crosses from happening, several of them reaching Peñarol’s hovering forwards. When recovering the ball, Palmeiras’ transition was typically a punt up the field, where Borja, completely isolated, faced two or three defenders. Palmeiras created nothing but suffered great pressure, succumbing at 12 (goal should have been void due to a clear foul on Mina) and again at 40. Things looked very grim at halftime.

The second half kicked off with Palmeiras back to basics: Vítor Hugo and Egídio out as Palmeiras reshaped into a 4-1-3-2, with Willian as Borja’s wingman and Tchê Tchê adding quality in the middle. The only novelty was Michel Bastos, dislocated to the left flank. The changes had immediate effect, Willian closing the gap with four minutes on the clock and Mina equalising at 18. Peñarol were on the ropes and suffered the third blow at 27, again by the feet of Willian. Palmeiras controlled the game until the final whistle, securing another epic victory.
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Act 2 – The Ambush
Final whistle. Felipe Melo raises his arms in a victorious gesture and walks slowly toward the centre of the pitch, but is intercepted by Peñarol players and the aggression starts, while supporters clash on the stands. Fernando Prass, Willian and others are targeted on the pitch, as havoc spreads all over. Melo defending himself with his fists. As Palmeiras players run for the exit – for the tunnel that leads to the locker rooms – they find the gates shut. Impossible to know what would have happened had not Palmeiras’ directors predicted something of the sort could go down and brought a batch of extra security with them to Montevideo: these men now go to work on the gates, forcing them open, finally permitting our staff and players to exit the pitch. The ruckus continues in the tunnel and down the corridors, but eventually stalls, again thanks to Palmeiras’ guards. No police in sight, outsourced stadium security or anyone else concerned with the safety of the visitors. On the contrary: there are reports of stadium management people, photographers and others attacking Palmeiras players and supporters.

Anything except heavy fines for Peñarol would be a tremendous scandal; CONMEBOL had better act fast and with vigour.
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Act 3 – Relief & Revolt
During the press conference that followed, Eduardo Baptista let the dogs out. He showed initial relief by the fact that no one was seriously injured, mixed with anger at the outrageous behaviour of Peñarol and the stadium administrators. However, an underlying issue quickly surfaced: all the bull written in the press about Palmeiras in general and Baptista’s work in particular. He really laid it out, pitched voice and fist slamming the table. All the frustration of being a serious and dedicated coach, leading a group of equally dedicated professionals, and having to read gossip and outright lies day in and day out, as if football was tabloid material. How much this hurts the sport and how much it damages the work he and others try to carry out. His bottom line: journalists have a huge responsibility, but many ignore that in their increasingly obsessive quest for audience rating and online clicks.

In the words of former Palmeiras director Custódio Dias: “I’d say we just witnessed Eduardo Baptista take command at Palmeiras”. And I agree with him. Things will never be the same between supporters and Baptista after yesterday’s victory and the way he later positioned himself vis-à-vis the press. Many might continue sceptical about his capacity as a coach, but he won the respect of everyone. Yes, I dare say everyone.
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— ooo —

Palmeiras now have 10 points, leading Group 5 four points ahead of Jorge Wilstermann and six points ahead of Atlético Tucumán. Peñarol is at the bottom with three points. In the next round, Palmeiras travel to Cochabamba, Bolivia, to face Wilstermann on 3 May.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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We all knew facing Peñarol would be tough, both physically and mentally. We were possibly not prepared for the scale. The Uruguayan players did absolutely everything in the book to sabotage the game – excessive use of force, retarding by all means possible, provocations including racial slurs. The Peñarol coach even deliberately provided the fourth referee with wrong numbers while conducting his substitutions, causing further delays.

To the mix, add a referee that was lost at best. He allowing for most of the above, delayed the game flow himself, and responded to our player’s growing frustration by sending Dudu off.

None of this mattered in the end. In a spectacular display of collective and individual determination, Palmeiras – down by the odd goal after the first half – came back in spectacular fashion to turn the game around with goals from Willian and Dudu, then suffer the equalizer before, in the dying minute, secure the three points through Fabiano. An epic, unforgettable night. I am literally speechless, and no doubt share this with most of the other 39.000 supporters who yesterday carried the team from start to finish.

A special mentioning to Guerra, yesterday’s master of the midfield, with an incredible number of passes finding his teammates in position to fire away. Palmeiras could and should have netted at least three more times, including a penalty that Borja sent up the stands.
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The sequence of decisive games continues Sunday, with the first leg of the Paulistão semi-finals: Ponte Preta, who eliminated Santos in the quarterfinals, are on the menu.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Ah yes, should say something about the pitch. Apparently, it was really good. Let’s see how it holds up in the weeks to come and, in particular, after having been covered up during a concert or two. For now, a rare “well done” to the arena administration.

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Football Soccer - 2017 Copa Libertadores draw.
Wednesday night, the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) carried out the 2017 Libertadores Cup draw. The number of participating teams has grown considerably, from 38 to 47, while one country less is represented, as Mexico opted out. This will be the 58th edition of the tournament and it will span for a whopping ten months – from 23 January to 29 November – the winner qualifying to the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup taking place 6-16 December in the Emirates.

Palmeiras ended up in group 5, together with Peñarol (Uruguay) and Jorge Wilstermann (Bolivia). The fourth team in the group will be the top dog of the knockout prequel featuring Atlético Tucumán (Argentina) vs El Nacional (Ecuador) and Atlético Junior (Colombia) vs Carabobo (Venezuela).

With all due respect to the adversaries in group 5, none of them strike fear in the hearts of palmeirenses. Peñarol are of course a traditional side and should be respected, but have not put together a truly competitive squad in years. Jorge Wilstermann are from Cochabamba, situated 2.500 meters above sea level: a piece of cake compared to La Paz’s 3.700. And the fourth team, yet to be defined… Well.

The group phase, where Palmeiras, Peñarol and Jorge Wilstermann enter the competition, only starts in early March. Our Verdão initiate their Libertadores campaign away, against the still undefined fourth team in the group, followed by two home games, against the Bolivians and the Argentines. The three completing games take place in reverse order.

Below, full tables with the eight groups.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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