Tag Archives: Copa Libertadores in English

C.D. Palestino 4-0 Zamora – 2015 Copa Libertadores Group 5 (7 April 2015)

Tuesday 7 April 2015

2015 Copa Libertadores Group 5

C.D. Palestino 4-0 Zamora FC

Estadio Santa Laura-Universidad SEK, Santiago

Goal Highlights of C.D. Palestino 4-0 Zamora FC, 2015 Copa Libertadores, 7 April 2015 (YouTube user xpertowinner).

More Misery for Zamora as Palestino Retain Qualification Hopes

In a very one-sided affair, Palestino got the win they needed to keep alive their hopes of reaching the knock-out stage, as their Venezuelan opposition put in a depressingly familiar performance.

Although in the early stages Zamora were to get a shot away within the first minute and enjoy some space on the counter against the high-pressing Chileans, they were, for the most part, of little concern to their hosts. Pre-kick-off, while they were not expected to win, putting up a respectable display did not seem out of the question, though perhaps having already been knocked out of the competition partially contributed to their limpness in this game. One plus that appeared to be in their favour was Jhon Murillo, the promising winger who had been suspended for the first game – a narrow 1-0 defeat. However, he was to suffer an injury after 39 minutes and had to be substituted, although even his biggest admirers would have to concede that he had, in any event, been largely anonymous.

Thus, instead it was the side who were actually playing for something that dominated, taking the game to the boys from Barinas and having countless opportunities to score – though they were made to wait before making the breakthrough. Indeed,  Zamora goalkeeper Eduard Ibarbo – who was receiving a rare start ahead of Álvaro Forero – was key in thwarting them in the first half, making a string of fine saves.

The first of these came in the 12th minute, when Mathías Vidangossy – who was to put in a memorable performance tormenting from the inside-left – played a one-two from the edge of the area and struck well only to be denied by Ibarbo’s outstretched arm. Eight minutes later and this time on the right, Vidangossy swung in a left-footed cross that the Uruguayan forward Diego Cháves headed low, but which Ibarbo managed to stop, committing his best save. Also, on the half-hour mark Ibarbo had a somewhat easier time diving to catch Jason Silva’s right-footed effort from just outside the area, which perhaps needed a little more pace on it.

However, despite this, the Zamora goalkeeper was not always to be such a reassuring presence, as he had already demonstrated with a few lapses in his handling and judgements which, unfortunately for his side, were only to increase in frequency as the game wore on. Indeed, at the end of the half, Ibarbo was to mis-time a free-kick lofted into the area, which resulted in a scramble that was prodded goalwards and, fortunately for the man in gloves, cleared off the line by a defender. Barely a minute afterwards, a cross came in that the Argentine defender Andrés Escudero headed no more than an inch of two wide from a promising position.

Through no fault of his own, Ibarbo was helpless when faced with this effort but he certainly did not cover himself in glory with the chance beforehand. Nevertheless, the score was still level at the break and, with the home crowd having grown increasingly agitated, there was certainly some hope amongst the Zamora faithful that their side could continue to frustrate in the second half. Yet for this to occur, they would need the more heroic side of their goalkeeper to come to the fore – an idle daydream that the man himself ensured they woke up from within a minute of the restart.

Indeed, Ibarbo’s early hapless attempt to collect Diego Torres’ cross from the left allowed Cháves to beat him to the ball and head home for the sudden opener. Immediately, home nerves were calmed and the sense of urgency cooled somewhat. Yet despite this, the Venezuelans never looked at any point like getting a goal throughout the second half, with instead Palestino looking as if they knew that they could increase their lead and were just choosing their time when to do so.

Before they did, they were to have a couple more notable chances, with the first of which on 57 minutes merely further diminishing Ibarbo’s chances of playing ahead of Forero on a regular basis. Again, he failed to collect a free-kick, which fell to an attacker but, being back-to-goal and acting on impulse, they could only hook the ball back into the flailing goalkeeper’s arms. Ibarbo did better with the next opportunity seven minutes later, as a low ball came in from the left that was met by Cháves yet, being no more than a few yards away from the goalkeeper, his sidefoot lacked the necessary direction and was blocked.

Four minutes later, when the second goal arrived, rather than the shortcomings of the goalkeeper, it was more those of the defence that it highlighted. Indeed, from the left, half-time substitute Leonardo Valencia hit a right-footed ball at pace into the area that was half-dealt with by a defender. It headed back from when it came, yet rather than being cleared by Luis Melo, it was instead stolen by the incoming Valencia, who strode in front of the Zamora player and struck a fine shot into the top corner.

If, in the unlikely event, there were any doubts regarding the outcome of this affair, this is where they were put to the bed and/or sectioned. Palestino’s supremacy was clear and the two goals they got late on were no more than a fair reflection of the overall play. The first came when an exquisite ball that glided from the outside of Vidangossy’s boot played through Valencia, who simply squared it to Cháves in the middle for a tap-in. A couple of minutes later, it was to be Vidangossy who sensationally completed the rout when a corner was cleared and then diverted into his path on the edge of the area. Here, without requiring a first touch, he unleashed a rather cultured golazo to cap off what was a man of the match performance.

Thus, 4-0 it ended and for now, at least, Palestino find themselves level on points with Montevideo Wanderers, who they no doubt hope will be on the receiving end of a sizeable reversal in their upcoming game with Boca Juniors. Next week, it will be the Chileans’ turn to face the Argentine giants in the final decisive round of fixtures, which will also see their rivals from Uruguay travelling to Venezuela to play Zamora who are, of course, already out with a dismal record of five consecutive defeats. While no doubt there will be some pressure to at least give their fans something to smile about, even a victory will not be able to mask the significant failings of Venezuelan domestic football.

Nevertheless, though not one win has yet to be achieved this year in 12 Copa Libertadores group games, for those who still possess the necessary stomachs, be sure to continue to follow the campaigns of the three participating Venezuelan sides – Zamora, Deportivo Táchira and Mineros de Guayana – on this website as well as on @DarrenSpherical.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Mineros de Guayana 0-2 Cruzeiro – 2015 Copa Libertadores Group 3 (19 March 2015)

Thursday 19 March 2015

2015 Copa Libertadores Group 3

Mineros de Guayana 0-2 Cruzeiro

Estadio Cachamay, Puerto Ordaz

Highlights of Mineros de Guayana 0-2 Cruzeiro, 2015 Copa Libertadores, 19 March 2015 (Video courtesy of YouTube user mateus3712)

Cruzeiro Made to Work for Victory in Venezuela

Brazilian champions Cruzeiro scored their first goals and also achieved their opening win of this year’s Copa Libertadores, though they had to survive a few scares before they could be assured of victory.

Mineros de Guayana, despite last time around being booed off following a dismal home defeat to Bolivia’s Club Universitario, put in a spirited performance and will feel disappointed not to have at least got on the scoresheet. They were anything but reticent, from the off letting their illustrious opponents know that they would be in for a game, with their first chance coming after 11 minutes when a low cross into the goalmouth was only cut out at the last moment.

However, the hosts never took for granted the task they were facing and just a minute later the Brazilians champions were to fulfil most pre-match predictions when they took the lead. Marquinhos – arguably Cruzeiro’s best player – bombed down the right, played a ball back for the Uruguayan Giorgian De Arrascaeta. His shot was blocked by goalkeeper Rafael Romo but fell straight to Leandro Damião, who headed it home. The Brazilian and erstwhile transfer target for European sides including the England trio of Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool has seen his career stall somewhat since he impressed at the 2012 Olympic Games and received some senior call-ups in the subsequent year. Nevertheless, he has started his Cruzeiro career with an impressive haul of six goals in six games in the State Championships and will be pleased to have got his new side’s first Libertadores goal of 2015.

To their enormous credit – and unlike the two other Venezuelan sides in this year’s competition – Mineros did not crumble after conceding an early goal against one of the contintent’s heavyweights. Instead, they were to continue with their forward forays throughout the half, with some of their most notable chances including Ebby Peréz’s deflected shot from a promising position after good work from Richard Blanco, James Cabezas controlling a long ball in the area before getting roughed off it by Eugenio Mena and Cabezas also having a header saved down low. The best opportunity to get back on level terms, however, came in the 34th minute when Ángelo Peña’s knockback into the area bamboozled the entire defence and goalkeeper, falling to 41-year-old right-back Luis Vallenilla. No more than ten yards out with a clear shot on goal, he struck low only to be denied at the foot of the near post by Fábio.

When the whistle blew for the interval, Mineros could feel relatively satisfied with their efforts, being still very much in the game and having only the goal and a late Romo miscalculation from a cross to really concern them.

After the restart, the hosts continued to search for an equaliser and while they were to enjoy much space in opposition territory, they were to leave themselves increasingly open to counter-attacks. One scare of this particular kind that they narrowly avoided came nine minutes into the half when De Arrascaeta freed into space Marquinhos, who drove into the area before his low shot was well saved by the outstretched leg of Romo.

Mineros were to have a half-chance a few minutes later when international left-back Gabriel Cichero suddenly emerged late in the area unmarked to head a diagonal ball from Peréz just over.

Mineros ploughed on but Cruzeiro were to have the next major chance of the match when, in the 67th minute, young attacker Alisson gained some space on the left inside the area and took aim, forcing goalkeeper Romo to pull off a decent save. While the goalkeeper was not to enjoy a flawless game, it was nevertheless a morale-boosting performance for Romo, who had been at fault for goals conceded in his side’s opening two group games. Indeed, after he fumbled the game-winning goal to Leonardo Castro in the previous encounter at home to Club Universitario, he suffered the ignominy of having his every touch booed by his own fans until the final whistle.

Despite such scares, the hosts continued their assaults in and around the Cruzeiro area and ten minutes later caused some nerves in the opposition backline to jangle when a series of crosses went back-and-forth, though no finish was forthcoming.

However, Mineros’ valiant efforts were to unfortunately come to nothing as the match was to be settled in the 83rd minute. Chilean international left-back Eugenio picked up the ball, played a one-two with Damião on the edge of the area and then put in a low cross from the left where, in the middle, Marquinhos just about ensured the ball crossed the line.

Blanco nearly managed to round Fábio late on, but the result was effectively decided with Marquinhos’ goal as Cruzeiro recorded their first win. In doing so, they leapt to the top of Group 3 with 5 points, the same amount as Club Universitario, though it is the Brazilians who have the superior goal difference.

Mineros, by contrast, are rooted to the bottom with a solitary point and so if they are to have any chance of progressing they will need to win their game, however unlikely this may seem, being as it is the reverse fixture away in Belo Horizonte.

As always, irrespective of what transpires, for more updates on the Libertadores campaigns of the three Venezuelan sides – Mineros de Guayana, Zamora FC and Deportivo Táchira – please check back here and/or @DarrenSpherical.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Deportivo Táchira 1-1 Club Guaraní – 2015 Copa Libertadores Group 8 (18 March 2015)

Wednesday 18 March 2015

2015 Copa Libertadores Group 8

Deportivo Táchira 1-1 Club Guaraní

Polideportivo de Pueblo Nuevo, San Cristóbal

Highlights of Deportivo Táchira 1-1 Club Guaraní, 2015 Copa Libertadores Group 8, 18 March 2015 (Video courtesy of YouTube user MXFS Venezuela)

Orozco Impresses but Improved Táchira Fail to Capitalise in Game of Penalties

Having been dispatched 5-2 last week in Asunción, Deportivo Táchira put in a much-improved performance though will ultimately feel an opportunity to get back into the qualification hunt was missed. 

From the off, the Venezuelans sought to take it to their Paraguayan opponents, frequently gaining some space on the flanks, putting in crosses and trying their luck from range. After five minutes, Guaraní received the first clear message that this encounter would be unlike last week’s as Táchira captain César González, possibly unintentionally, hit the top of the crossbar with a long-range free-kick from the right. Four minutes later, dimunitive winger Yohandry Orozco – whose runs, both on the flanks and further infield, were to cause problems all night – curled a low left-footed free-kick just wide from the edge of the area.

It was to be these two players who were involved in the opening goal as, in the 19th minute, Orozco ran from the inside-right into the area where, following an entanglement with Luis Cabral which sent both men to the ground, a penalty was awarded. Replays struggled to pinpoint exactly what the offence was, but nevertheless González stepped up and confidently converted the spot-kick into the bottom left-hand corner for his fourth goal in consecutive games and his third in four Libertadores group matches.

The Venezuelans continued to attack but the first half as a whole was a rather even affair with the Paraguayans also regularly getting forwards and testing the Táchira rearguard with crosses and long-range shots. They were afforded an opportunity back into the game on the half-hour mark as a free-kick from the edge of the area hit the arm of a player in the wall and was adjudged, somewhat harshly, to have been an intentional handball. However, Federico Santander, a 23-year-old forward who has been capped at international level and who has had loan spells in both France and Argentina, was unable to score from the 12-yard spot. Instead, goalkeeper Alan Liebeskind guessed correctly to pull off what remarkably was his fourth penalty save since joining Táchira at the beginning of the year.

However, the visitors continued their drive to get back into the game and five minutes after Julián Benítez hit a fine long-range shot just wide of the post, he was to get an opportunity to level from the spot. Indeed, in the 41st minute, Argentine centre-back Javier López was penalised in the area for holding back Santander as both men awaited a cross. Thus, the third penalty of the game was awarded, with this time Benítez taking control of the situation and burying the ball into the back of the net to even up the score at half-time.

The second half, though certainly not a one-sided affair, largely belonged to Táchira and yet they were ultimately unable to take advantage of the situation. Eight minutes after the restart they thought they had taken the lead as González, from a similar position to last week’s assist for López’s goal, crossed a free-kick into the area for full-back Yuber Mosquera to head in off the bar. However, his celebrations were quickly cut short by an offside flag.

On the hour-mark, it was Orozco’s turn to come close as a deflected shot from outside the area took a wicked deflection and rebounded off the crossbar, causing goalkeeper Alfredo Aguilar to flail around largely oblivious to the ball’s whereabouts. The next big moment for the hosts came after 72 minutes and was again the work of Orozco as he skilfully took on his man inside the area, before putting a low ball across for González in space sideways-on. Unfortunately for the experienced international who has recently earned a recall to the national side, he was unable to orientate himself quickly enough and his shot was deflected for a corner.

However, despite earning plaudits from the fans for this piece of creativity and generally for his role as the leading attacking threat, Orozco was surprisingly taken off soon afterwards to be replaced by Ángel Osorio. This decision caused uproar amongst the home faithful whose booing and abuse towards manager Daniel Farías – ‘Fuera  Farías’ and ‘Farías hijo de puta’ were amongst the ditties heard – continued with varying degrees of venom until the final whistle. For a manager who many were surprised did not receive the sack following his side’s poor showing in the 2014 Torneo Apertura, this was not the wisest of moves.

In the remaining moments of the game, the hosts nevertheless continued to lead the play and were not too far from winning it when González’s free-kick cross was narrowly missed in the centre – much to the captain’s annoyance. However, a shadow had been cast over the game following Orozco’s removal and when the final whistle was blown, the discontented hordes will have felt vindicated when their man was duly awarded the official man of the match prize.

While Orozco can feel justly aggrieved by his manager’s decision, the outrage on his behalf that followed certainly will not do his reputation any harm. This is something that he has sought to rebuild since returning from Wolfsburg just under two years ago, a move which somewhat dented his status as his nation’s ‘Next Big Thing’.

Whether or not he could have inspired his side to victory on the night can never be known but their failure to pick up three points has surely sealed their fate in Group 8. Whereas a win would have put them just one point off second place, they instead trail by three points and, with a trip to Argentine champions Racing as one of their last two group games, it seems very unlikely that they will progress to the knock-out stage.

Nevertheless, Táchira came close to attaining the first Venezuelan victory of the group stage and will fancy their chances of achieving this in their next game, a home encounter with Peru’s Sporting Cristal. This match, as well their final encounter and all the remaining games of the other two Venezuelan sides – Mineros de Guayana and Zamora FC – will be featured on this site as well as on @DarrenSpherical, so feel free to return to both for further updates.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Mineros de Guayana 0-1 Club Universitario – 2015 Copa Libertadores Group 3 (3 March 2015)

Tuesday 3 March 2015

2015 Copa Libertadores Group 3

Mineros de Guayana 0-1 Club Universitario 

Estadio Cachamay, Puerto Ordaz

Goal Highlight of Mineros de Guayana 0-1 Club Universitario, 2015 Copa Libertadores, 3 March 2015 (Video courtesy of YouTube user xpertowinner)

Memorable Night for Bolivians, Forgettable One for Everybody Else

Goalkeeper Rafael Romo as well as manager Marcos Mathías earned the ire of the Mineros faithful as the Venezuelan side lost what was predicted to be their most winnable group game.

For neutrals, this was an entirely forgettable affair with both teams rarely troubling the opposition goal and which was largely characterised by a lack of urgency and intensity. For Universitario fans, however, this win was a significant step forward as it marked the first time since 1994 that a Bolivian side won in the Copa Libertadores away in Venezuela.

They achieved this against the run of play as though it would be a stretch to say Mineros were dominant, they did have the lion’s share of the ball. In the first half, the closest they came to a goal was after four minutes from what looked like a miscued ball into the area from arguably their top performer, Ángelo Peña. This was curled in with his right boot towards goalkeeper Juan Robles who misjudged it, leading him to parry it out unconvincingly whilst almost standing behind his own line.

However, Robles was certainly not the only one making goalkeeping errors and when the contest was ten minutes old, it was Rafael Romo’s turn to commit his first of the game. From a Universitario free-kick on the left 35 yards from goal, he misjudged a bounce through a crowd of players and instead of collecting, he nervously parried the ball out, causing uncertainty amongst his colleagues.

For the rest of the half, it was largely a case of misplaced passes and attacks that were over before they had begun. The best method either side – particularly the hosts – had of breaking the deadlock appeared to come from set-pieces. Just after the half-hour mark, a Universitario free-kick was lofted into the area for Argentine centre-back Federico Silvestre to head a few yards wide – the placement of the header as well as the fact that he was whistled offside only underlines just how little threat was actually being offered here. Mineros fared slightly better and had several free-kicks, with the two that came closest being struck by international left-back Gabriel Cichero. The first of these was curled comfortably into Robles’ hands but the second on the stroke of half-time was hit with pace and flashed just a yard or so over the bar.

Following an interval that everybody in the stands was grateful to have reached, the hosts did offer some hope in the opening minutes of the restart that the second half would be an altogether more attacking affair. Peña was the catalyst behind two moves in quick succession, the first of which involved him playing a fine 35-yard ball from the halfway-line that got in behind the defence to Zamir Valoyes. The Colombian striker took it in his stride but his lashed shot from the edge of the area went a yard or so over, seemingly having been flicked off the fingertips of Robles, though no corner was awarded. Straight afterwards, but from a far more acute angle, Valoyes’ striker-partner Richard Blanco picked up a long ball from Peña on the left, made some space near the touchline and squeezed into the area, shooting low at Robles.

However, despite this early promise, the half descended into a similar anti-spectacle of misplaced passes, tediously repetitive midfield skirmishes and paltry offerings from the front-lines. If a team could be said to have had the upper hand in these weak exchanges, it was certainly the hosts. Thus, when the visitors got their goal in the 74th minute – their first effort on target in the half which came complete with an unforced goalkeeping error – it was still somewhat of a surprise. This occurred after a ball into the Mineros area was knocked out to Alejandro Bejarano who teed himself up from 20 yards for a left-footed strike. This bounced just before Romo, though not too awkwardly and so if he felt he could not hold onto it, he still should have had the awareness not to spill it straight to Colombian striker Leonardo Castro, who pounced for what proved to be the winner. Coming just a week after an even worse howler against Huracán – far from his only previous mistake this season – the Mineros fans were in an unforgiving mood and proceeded to boo his every subsequent touch right up until the final whistle.

Suddenly on the ropes and needing to rev up a few gears to a level that they had hitherto not reached, it was of little surprise to regular observers of Venezuelan sides to see tempers suddenly begin to fray. This culminated in the 81st minute with Valoyes committing a completely needless and excruciatingly dangerous midfield challenge, for which the Colombian striker was immediately given his marching orders – quite the fall in grace from being last week’s two-goal hero in Argentina.

In the last ten minutes, the hunt for an equaliser was punctured by this man-disadvantage and as the final whistle was blown, chants were ringing out for the departure of Mineros boss Marcos Mathías. Having replaced the popular ex-national boss Richard Páez in the autumn of last year, it was never going to be easy to match his predecessor’s achievement of finishing runners-up in the league and attaining qualification for this very edition of the Libertadores. However, with his side currently in the bottom half of the Torneo Clausura and having now lost what was considered to be their most winnable Libertadores group game, it should not come as a surprise to him if, in the upcoming weeks, he receives a tap on the shoulder from the board.

By contrast, Universitario were understandably elated at the result and now find themselves top of the group with 4 points, after Huracán earned themselves a creditable point away to Brazilian champions Cruzeiro in what was, as far as 0-0 draws go, a fairly lively encounter. Both of these sides now have 2 points so on paper Mineros, with just the 1, should not feel out of the hunt just yet, but they will know that they missed a big opportunity here.

The next game for the Venezuelans will be in two weeks’ time at home to Cruzeiro, a daunting proposition with the one minor consolation being that their opponents have failed to score in either of their group games. Whether or not the Brazilians can conjure up any creative alchemy and turn that game into a bloodbath remains to be seen, but irrespective of what happens, feel free to check back here and/or at @DarrenSpherical for further updates on the Copa Libertadores campaign of not only Mineros de Guayana but also those of Deportivo Táchira and Zamora FC.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Huracán 2-2 Mineros de Guayana – 2015 Copa Libertadores Group 3 (24 February 2015)

Tuesday 24 February 2015

2015 Copa Libertadores Group 3

Huracán 2-2 Mineros de Guayana 

Estadio Tomás Adolfo Ducó, Buenos Aires

Highlights of Huracán 2-2 Mineros de Guayana, 2015 Copa Libertadores, 24 February 2015 (Video courtesy of YouTube user xpertowinner)

Mineros Defy the Odds and Nearly Sneak Victory

Despite being afforded little hope by most neutrals before the match, Venezuela’s Mineros de Guayana rode their luck in this Group 3 opener to come within a few minutes of taking away from Buenos Aires what would have been an impressive victory.

Although they possess several internationals in their ranks, domestically the most easterly side in Venezuela’s top-flight have been mired in some rather mediocre, mid-table form since finishing runners-up last May. They would have been right to feel apprehensive facing an Argentine side who, though newly promoted and playing in this competition for the first time since 1974, swatted aside illustrious Peruvian giants Alianza Lima 4-0 away from home in the Libertadores qualifying round.

For the first twenty minutes, the game largely adhered to the script, with Huracán dominating possession with some neat passing play and testing the Mineros defence with long balls and crosses from both flanks. Goalkeeper Rafael Romo made some important, if expected, stops from leading striker Ramón ‘Wanchope’ Ábila and experienced playmaker Patricio Toranzo though was scrambling when the fabulous left-footed volley of youngster Alejandro Romero Gamarra rattled the crossbar, before trickling across the goalmouth.

However, despite looking vulnerable at the back, Mineros did have a few forward forays, with that of recent international goalscorer Richard Blanco after 20 minutes, earning a free-kick on the left edge of the area after he was upended by a defender he had beaten for pace. Colombian forward Zamir Valoyes stepped up and, to silence the Globo faithful, curled a low powerful effort into the far corner that appeared to beat Marcos Díaz for pace. Mineros had a surprise lead.

A little flustered, the hosts nevertheless continued as before, though were now looking to get back into the game – a pursuit with which the visitors were to unwittingly provide some clumsy assistance. Indeed, little over five minutes following the opener, a ball was slid into the centre of the area where Édgar Jiménez picked it up. With more time on his hands that he evidently was aware of, the much-maligned international hastily nudged it against Lucas Villarruel whose block rebounded the ball back to Romo. Unfortunately for Venezuela’s third-choice goalkeeper – and not for the first time in recent memory – he failed to collect a relatively straightforward ball, instead dropping it for Villarruel to pounce and nudge home.

For the rest of the first half, the balance of play continued in the same vein as it had since kick-off, with Huracán putting in some crosses that tested Mineros’ nervy defence and getting a few shots on goal. The hosts did, however, receive a blow just before half-time as goalkeeper Marcos Díaz was injured and had to be replaced by Matías Giordano. This was especially disappointing for Díaz as he had been the shootout hero of November’s Copa Argentina win against Rosario Central, saving two of the three penalties the opposition failed to convert and thus securing Libertadores qualification for his side.

Moving into the second period, barring a brief early spell, the hosts continued to dominate possession in the first 25 minutes. However, while the Argentines may have enjoyed most of the play and, at times, been encamped within the Mineros half, they rarely threatened the opposition goal. They must have sensed their Venezuelan foes were growing in confidence, something they could see with their own eyes when, with 20 minutes remaining, Mineros made a rare foray into the other half. On the inside-left, goalscorer Valoyes slid a neat reverse ball through for substitute Angelo Peña – a man with international caps and a stint in Portugal on his CV – who found himself one-on-one with Giordano, but hit his shot too close to the goalkeeper.

From this moment onwards, the game turned into an end-to-end contest, something that was best encapsulated in a thrilling 30-second spell several minutes later. This started with Venezuelan international Blanco hitting the bar with a fine strike and then seeing the ball rebound to his La Vinotinto colleague Rafael Acosta who, from the edge of the area, hit the post with a good effort with the outside of his right boot. Before anyone could catch breath, the Argentines were up the other end where substitute and much-travelled recent recruit Daniel Montenegro then hit the crossbar.

However, it did not take the Venezuelans long to go one better as in the 80th minute Valoyes, with Federico Mancinelli behind him, appeared to slip following minimal contact and was awarded a rather fortuitous penalty. The Colombian himself stepped up to convert the spot-kick, thus gaining his second goal of the game and giving his side a suprise lead that, pre-game, few outside of Venezuela were predicting.

Alas, once again, a Venezuelan team were unable to hold on as with two minutes left, defender Julio Machado was adjudged to have hauled Montenegro to the ground in the penalty area. While it looked a little soft, many saw this as justice served and it was 36-year-old defender Eduardo Domínguez who held his nerve to ensure this game ended on level terms.

Before the game, one senses Mineros de Guayana would have taken a draw and indeed their defence-minded tactics borne of Libertadores experience were certainly designed primarily to frustrate, with the hope of mounting a counter-attack every now and again. When Huracán began to run out of ideas, the Venezuelan side threw off their shackles and came within a few minutes of achieving a memorable win.

Played on the same night, this group’s other fixture saw Brazilian champions Cruzeiro draw 0-0 against Bolivia’s Club Universitario, which, given the conditions, is not a point to be sniffed at. In their next match, they will be back in more comfortable environs in Belo Horizonte, where they will face Huracán, a game for which the sensible money will be on the hosts. Mineros thus will be at home to the Bolivian side, in a game that they really must win in order to feel that progressing from this group is a viable possibility.

As always, check back here and/or at @DarrenSpherical for further updates on the Copa Libertadores campaigns of not only Mineros de Guayana but also Deportivo Táchira and Zamora, as well as a whole lot more related to Venezuelan and South American football.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Deportivo Táchira 0-5 Racing Club de Avellaneda – 2015 Copa Libertadores Group 8 (17 February 2015)

Tuesday 17 February 2015

2015 Copa Libertadores Group 8

Deportivo Táchira 0-5 Racing Club de Avellaneda 

Polideportivo de Pueblo Nuevo, San Cristóbal

Highlights of Deportivo Táchira 0-5 Racing Club de Avellaneda, 2015 Copa Libertadores, 17 February 2015 (Video courtesy of YouTube user: xpertowinner)

Toothless Táchira Routed by Rampant Racing

After being lauded last week for making Venezuelan history by knocking out Cerro Porteño to qualify for the LibertadoresTáchira were handed a crushing reality check in their first group game as Racing’s dynamic partnership of Gustavo Bou and Diego Milito ran riot.

While Táchira always knew it was going to be a taxing encounter against the Argentine champions, at least keeping the scoreline respectable seemed an achievable aim – a task which they were to fail miserably at in front of a full-capacity Pueblo Nuevo.

As has been a recurring theme for Venezuelan sides at club and national level, while Los Aurinegros were not entirely overawed in the opening exchanges and enjoyed some attacks of their own, when their opponents made their first breakthrough, it did not take long for any game-plan to disintegrate. Indeed, before the opener, Táchira had managed to get forward, with Yohandry Orozco and Pablo Olivera in particular working the flanks, putting in some testing balls and causing some minor melees within the Racing area.

However, their forward forays were little to shout about in comparison to those of the Argentines who had nearly scored after three minutes when Orozco poked a clearance inches wide of his own goal and then on 14 minutes when Bou was granted space to drive a shot against the post. Bou perhaps should have finished off this opportunity, but he was to more than make up for this over the course of the game, starting with his involvement in the first goal. Indeed, in the 21st minute, from the left edge of the area he drove a grass-grazingly low free-kick into the crowd of players where it trickled through for Luciano Lollo to get the faintest of touches to direct it in between goalkeeper Alan Liebeskind’s legs. Although some Racing fans were on hand to greet the goal, an abrupt silence suddenly descended upon Pueblo Nuevo’s sea of yellow-and-black hordes, who were represented by twice the number that witnessed the home leg of the Cerro Porteño tie.

Subsequently, while the hosts did attempt to mount some of their own attacks, their more decorated opponents always looked the likelier to extend their lead, with midfielder Marcos Acuña forcing a decent Liebeskind parry from a 35-yard strike not long after the goal.

If there were any lingering doubts over this outcome, they were all but put to bed in the 40th minute when the second of Racing’s rout arrived, sensationally demonstrating the gulf between the two sides. In a fantastically worked move that started on the right, Acuña’s pass was dummied by Milito, who then ran into the area to receive Bou’s pass, only to return it back to his younger accomplice who controlled then fired home spectacularly from just inside the box.

Bou, who turned 25 less than a few hours after the game had ended, is something of a late developer, having been reared at River Plate where he failed to make his mark with the seniors or, to any noteworthy degree, on any of his three loan spells. When his River contract was not renewed and he was subsequently picked up by Racing last August, few were envisaging him becoming the club’s top scorer with 10 goals in 15 games, striking up a fine partnership with Milito that fired the side to their first title win since 2001.

The understanding between the pair was there for all to admire with this goal, but when the third went in after the break in the 53rd minute, it was entirely Bou’s to savour – much as goalkeeper Sebastián Saja and data analysts may wish to claim otherwise. Indeed, erstwhile Argentine international Saja – who was embarrassingly at fault at the weekend for the winning goal in Racing’s opening day loss to Rosario – officially received an assist after hoisting a clearance forward that reached Bou on the right edge of the area. However, standing back-to-goal with a defender hot on his tails, the ingenuity involved here was certainly all Bou’s, as he took one touch then rapidly turned to fire an unstoppable shot into the top right-hand corner. To ask observers to pick the best goal from this and the one that preceded it is perhaps to open up a rift between differing sensibilities, but what is not in doubt is that they were both converted by the man of the match who is enjoying the most successful spell of his career.

Bou was on hand just a few minutes later to turn provider for Milito as, from a central position, he slid a through ball between Táchira’s static defence to the former Inter Milan striker. Though fatigue may have been a factor, nobody tracked the man whose two goals won the 2010 Champions League final and he had all the time in the world to first feint, then dink, the ball past Liebeskind.

Just over ten minutes later with increasing amounts of space being offered to the visitors, Uruguayan Washington Camacho, a recent recruit from Defensa y Justicia, roamed forward to play a through ball to the right side within the area. Here, Milito again had the freedom of San Cristóbal with no defenders within ten yards of him as he passed first-time across the goalmouth where Bou hooked the ball home to complete his hat-trick and his side’s triumph.

Racing’s supremacy was plain to see and, a fine parried Francisco Flores effort aside, Táchira barely had any clear chances in the second half until five minutes from time when substitute José Alí Meza was brought down for a penalty. Up stepped 37-year-old veteran Jorge Rojas, Venezuela’s third most-capped player of all time and who, more to the point, had converted a penalty in each of his last three consecutive league matches. Yet no consolation could be offered to the ever-dwindling number of home fans as the supposed Mr. Reliable could do no better than blast the ball well over the bar with a shot that was hit with such venom it comfortably cleared the athletics track surrounding the pitch.

Although there may have been significantly less people left at the final whistle, around 38,000 people paid to see this 5-0 whitewash, a figure that is approximately four times greater than their average league attendance. Given not only this result but their next Libertadores home opposition in early March, Paraguay’s Guaraní, if Pueblo Nuevo is even half full for this game, then Táchira ought to be pleased. Before that, however, they travel to Peru next week to face champions Sporting Cristal – who let a two-goal lead slip to draw 2-2 away to Guaraní – a game in which at least drawing will seem necessary in order to retain any realistic hopes of reaching the next stage.

In the meantime, after this humiliation they will have to reconsider how to negotiate their path through this group with the dubious consolation that, having now faced a strike-partnership that could well fire their side all the way to the final, the only way is surely up.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical