Wednesday 8 April 2015
2015 Copa Libertadores Group 8
Deportivo Táchira 0-0 Sporting Cristal
Polideportivo de Pueblo Nuevo, San Cristóbal
Highlights of Deportivo Táchira 0-0 Sporting Cristal, 2015 Copa Libertadores Group 8, 8 April 2015 (Video courtesy of YouTube user xpertowinner)
Táchira Bow Out as Cristal’s Fortunes Hang in the Balance
In their penultimate group game, Deportivo Táchira’s elimination from this year’s Copa Libertadores was confirmed following a relatively uneventful encounter with Peruvian champions Sporting Cristal.
Without getting a real opportunity on target, it was the visitors who edged the first half, often looking to attack from the flanks, with left-back Alexis Cossío – who recently featured at the Under-20 South American Youth Championship – delivering the bulk of the crosses. The closest they came to a goal occurred in the 30th minute as a free-kick delivered by Argentina-born Horacio Calcaterra was headed by Irven Ávila at the backpost past goalkeeper José Contreras, necessitating a desperate hooked clearance on the line by Carlos Rivero.
By contrast, the hosts were more reliant on long balls, pumping them upfield to be chased by the likes of Pablo Olivera who, to the increasing irritation of the home fans, was to often find himself in offside positions. However, their best opportunity, which arrived in the 38th minute, came via a more direct route as Yohandry Orozco – who impressed so much last time out that boos greeted his removal from the field – dribbled up the inside-right towards the area. Yet, the lack of threat offered by Táchira in this period was exemplified by the outcome of this attack as Orozco’s left-footed shot was struck without venom and thus comfortably saved by erstwhile Burnley goalkeeper Diego Penny.
A small mercy was to be afforded to the spectactors inside the ground – which, in marked contrast to the full house for the first home game against Racing, was well under half its capacity – as the second half was to be marginally more entertaining. The majority would have been pleased to see the hosts enjoy the greater of the chances and, to some extent, change tact with more opportunities being derived from the runs of the likes of Orozco and, latterly, substitute José Alí Meza.
Their best chances were to come in quick succession with the half barely five minutes old. Firstly, having had another run abruptly halted by Cossio, Orozco won a free-kick on the edge of the area, which he himself curled over the wall only to see it rebound straight back off the post. Subsequently, the ball fell to Olivera who instinctively knocked it past Penny yet, once again, he was standing in an offside position and thus the goal was ruled out. Just a minute later, Orozco was to find himself over on the left, from where he ran past a defender and slid the ball low across the area to Olivera yet, from a hugely advantageous position, the Uruguayan striker was to squander what was a golden opportunity by tapping the ball wide.
Throughout the rest of this half, Orozco was to continue to spread uncertainty amongst the Cristal back line and Olivera was to find himself offside time and time again before being substituted, but the chances that occurred at the opening of the half were to remain the hosts’ best. The Peruvians, though less successful from the flanks in this period, were to gradually recover from the early threats and had their best overall chance in the 69th minute. This came following a cross from the right that was struck sweetly on the volley in the centre by substitute Renzo Sheput, from which Contreras, with little time to think, managed to pull off a superb one-handed save on the stretch.
In the remaining 20 minutes of regulation time, while both sides continued their forward forays, aside from the odd half-chance and, in the case of the visitors, a half-hearted penalty shout, neither was to seriously threaten the opposition goal. However, following a last-minute red card for Cristal substitute Edinson Chávez, one final opportunity to win the match was to be had, though despite the implorations in the crowd, this was not to fall to the hosts. Instead, Sheput, with what was virtually the last kick of the game, curled a swerving left-footed free-kick from 35 yards just inches wide of the post.
With the game ending in a goalless draw, nobody in the Pueblo Nuevo was particularly surprised to see the Venezuelans eliminated. However, while a point against the Peruvian champions is not to be sniffed at, they may feel an opportunity to claim the first victory in this year’s group stage for their country was missed. As their final opponents, leaders Racing (9 points), are not yet confirmed as the top dog in the group and so are unlikely to field a weakened side, nobody will be expecting Táchira to be the Venezuelan side to rectify this sorry state of affairs next week. By contrast, Sporting Cristal (6 points) will have significantly more to play for in their home tie against Guaraní (8 points), as both know only one can reach the knock-out stage.
Nevertheless, though it has been a rather forgettable year for Venezuelan teams in this year’s Copa Libertadores, for those who are still curious to see if any of them (Zamora and Mineros de Guayana, as well as Deportivo Táchira) can gain that as-yet-elusive win, be sure to continue checking back on this site and/or on @DarrenSpherical.