Boca shine amid a gloomy start for Argentinian clubs in the Libertadores Cup.
By Brian Homewood
Boca apart, Argentinian teams have made a miserable start to the Libertadores Cup with one side after another slumping to away defeats against supposedly inferior opponents.
River Plate, San Lorenzo and Estudiantes all lost their first two away matches, while Lanus – leaders of the closing championship – slumped to an embarrassing 3-1 defeat at Caracas.
Lanus did manage to steal a point from their visit to Chilean side Everton but quickly made up for that by losing 2-1 at home in the return, a result which left them bottom of Group Six and almost certainly facing a quick exit.
San Lorenzo followed up their defeats away to Universitario and Libertad by losing at home to the Paraguayan champions, courtesy of an own goal by defender Gaston Aguirre.
River Plate went down 1-0 away to Peruvian champions Universidad SMP, but the low point was their 3-0 defeat by Nacional in Montevideo.
River striker Cristian Fabbiani then surprisingly claimed Nacional were not good enough to play in the competition, saying: “They’re not up to Libertadores standard, they’ve only got 10 supporters and we’re going to steamroller them at home.”
Nacional were predictably indignant and even their mild-mannered coach Gerardo Pelusso joined in the counter-attack. “Looking at the great River teams of the past and the idols the club have had throughout their history, the fact they now have a player like this one speaks volumes about their fall from grace,” he said of Fabbiani, who is nicknamed “The Ogre” and struggles to get his weight below 100kg.
Boca, meanwhile, were top of Group Two after winning their first three games – including two away – although their 3-1 victory over Guarani in Paraguay came with the help of a highly controversial penalty.
Boca were 1-0 down when Hugo Ibarra was judged to have been fouled by Elvis Marecos, though television replays clearly showed no contact was made. Juan Roman Riquelme looked almost apologetic after stroking in the penalty. Goals from Martin Palermo and Rodrigo Palacio completed the win.
Better from Brazil
With the notable exception of Vanderlei Luxemburgo’s Palmeiras, who lost away to defending champions LDU and at home to Chilean champions Colo Colo in Group One, Brazil’s teams are faring much better.
Brazilian champions Sao Paulo were typically ruthless and efficient in winning 3-1 away to America and 1-0 away to Defensor Sporting in Group Four, although they needed an injury-time goal from Borges to hold Independiente Medellin 1-1 at home.
Cruzeiro were also going strong, top of Group Five with 10 points from four games, despite having four players sent off in their first three games.
Gremio led Group Seven with seven points from three games, although they made life difficult for themselves with some spectacularly wayward finishing.
They began by being held 0-0 at home by Universidad de Chile despite dominating from start to finish. At one stage, Gremio missed four chances in 15 seconds as one header was cleared off the line, a shot was blocked, another effort hit a post and the rebound was smothered by Miguel Pinto.
In their next game, in Colombia, Gremio beat Chico 1-0 with a first-half goal by Souza. But the highlight was a triple miss by Jonas, who had a shot saved by Edigson Velasquez, hit a post from the rebound then collected the ball again, rounded the keeper but contrived to shoot wide with the goal gaping.
Gremio displayed more poor finishing in a 2-1 win at Aurora, whose defeat left them pointless after four games and Bolivian teams without a win between them – Real Potosi went out in the preliminaries after losing both legs against Palmeiras, while Universitario de Sucre have got just one point in Group Five.