Tuesday 24 February 2015
2015 Copa Libertadores Group 8
Sporting Cristal 1-1 Deportivo Táchira
Estadio Alberto Gallardo, Lima
Highlights of Sporting Cristal 1-1 Deportivo Táchira, 2015 Copa Libertadores, 24 February 2015 (Video courtesy of YouTube user xpertowinner)
Liebeskind to the Rescue as Táchira Gain Morale-Boosting Point
In stoppage-time, Alan Liebeskind’s penalty-saving heroics came to the fore once again as the Venezuelans salvaged a late draw to gain their first point in this year’s Libertadores.
For the majority of this game, things were looking rather pessimistic for Táchira as they struggled to get a decent shot on target until around the hour-mark. Instead, in the opening exchanges, aside from a good long-range effort from Jorge Rojas that went a yard or two over, it was their Peruvian hosts who dominated possession, looking more assured on the ball and creating clearer chances. The first of these fell to Irven Ávila – a Peruvian international who has been very prolific at club level – though he was unable to guide his header either side of Liebeskind. Their next moment of note in the penalty area was the opening goal, which came on 27 minutes as Ávila slid a pass to 35-year-old Carlos Lobatón in acres of room on the edge of the area. Here, far too much time and space was afforded to him as his low right-footed strike was blocked by Liebeskind but rebounded straight back for the midfielder to put it away with his opposite foot.
For the remainder of the half, the hosts were to continue to exert their superiority, with two more notable efforts attempted, the first a low shot from Horacio Calcaterra that Liebeskind parried uncomfortably and the second from Ávila that went no more than a yard or two wide.
While still second-best, Táchira were to enjoy more forward forays after the interval. Within the first ten minutes of the restart, top-scorer Gelmin Rivas was played through by Rojas but was unable to get a shot away, then soon after narrowly missed a low ball put in by Yohandry Orozco, before the roles were reversed and Rivas knocked in a similar pass that his team-mate could not quite make contact with. Not long following this, the Venezuelans first attempt on goal came on 57 minutes when defender Javier López connected with a corner though his header was too close to Diego Penny. Regarding the Cristal goalkeeper, those with exceptionally good memories may or may not remember Penny making a solitary appearance just over five years ago in the English Premier League as well as in the Championship for Burnley.
Nevertheless, despite this bright start from the visitors, Cristal largely remained on top and came very close to extending their lead on 76 minutes when Uruguayan hotshot Sergio Blanco lashed a strike from an acute angle that Liebeskind did well to save with his trailing leg. Blanco was to have another opportunity a minute later as he headed a cross that the goalkeeper tipped over.
However, though the hosts had the better of the chances, Táchira were to level up the score with just a few minutes left on the clock when César González curled one of his patented 25-yard free-kicks over the wall, leaving Penny rooted to his spot.
Yet, in what was not entirely a surprise to observers of Venezuelan sides of all levels playing outside of their borders, their opponents were to receive some assistance in their hunt to regain the lead late on. Indeed, in stoppage-time the experienced Jorge Rojas was adjudged to have committed a foul in his own area. It seemed a little harsh as, to clear the ball, the highly capped international stretched out a raised leg which unfortunately caught substitute Diego Manicero who had dashed in from behind in a bid to win the ball. Nevertheless, the referee pointed to the spot, from which another substitute, Renzo Sheput – a 34-year-old with a couple of Peruvian caps to his name – fired a textbook left-footed strike towards the right-sided bottom corner that was spectacularly denied by Liebeskind. The goalkeeper, a mid-season signing from struggling Portuguesa in early January, parried it wide to make what was an astonishing third save from the five penalties he has faced since his move.
Thus, after last week’s 5-0 home humiliation by Argentine champions Racing, Táchira picked up a point that their performance perhaps did not quite merit but which, after Liebeskind’s late heroics, will have felt hard-fought. Their opponents will be disappointed but will have to quickly pick themselves up as they next travel to Buenos Aires to face Racing, whose attacking prowess showed no signs of abating as they despatched Paraguayans Guaraní 4-1 on the same night. In this game, Gustavo Bou achieved the extremely impressive feat of a second consecutive hat-trick, thus giving him six goals in two group games – already one more than the joint top-scorers of last season’s competition.
For their next game, Táchira will be away to Guaraní and as always, for more updates on their Libertadores campaign, as well as those of their fellow Venezuelan sides – Zamora FC and Mineros de Guayana – please check back here and/or visit @DarrenSpherical.