Flamengo had rain strip the advantages of the Maracanã, the first leg of their Round of 16 tie with Corinthians that ended 1-0, a second half penalty leading to their only goal. By halftime of yesterday's reverse in São Paulo, Flamengo was trailing by a 2-1 aggregate and on the verge of becoming the first of the pre-tournament favorites to exit the competition. Ronaldo had put the Timão ahead after a Fla own goal, the hosts looking poised to defy the criticism that their number one seed was build on the back of an easy group.
But in a battle of teams star-studded with recent, high-profile acquisitions, it was the most recent of the big signings that had the last word. Vagner Love, whose move to Palmeiras in the middle of the 2009 Brasileirão helped derail the Verdão's championship (and Copa Lib) hopes, scored four minutes into the second half, finishing a sublime build-up that saw three quick, one-touch balls angle the Flamengo striker behind the defense for an easy finish past goalkeeper Felipe.
With it, Flamengo had cancelled out David's own goal and Ronaldo's header (softly let in by Bruno). The away goals tie-breaker sends Corinthians crashing out, the biggest prize of their centenary year push taken from them, four rounds before the finish.
For all the bluster surrounding Corinthians, it's never been clear that they were better than Flamengo. Fla's push at the end of the last Brazilian season was the most salient point on these teams' recent resumés, with the ultimately determinative acquisition of Vagner Love only enhancing their claim to being the best team in Brazil. While they stumbled in the Taça Rio, Taça Guanabara, and Copa group, none of those tasks had the stakes of their end-of-season run in Brazil or their match-up with Corinthians.
And in that all Brazilian match-up Flamengo showed they remain their country's best team, becoming the first sixteen seed to unseat a number one.
Flamengo goes through on away goals, 2-2, to meet the winner of Universidad de Chile and Alianza Lima (who play tonight in Santiago).
#3 Estudiantes 3 (4) eliminates #14 San Luis 1 (1)
Diego de la Torre scoring for San Luis in the seventh minute of Wednesday's match was one of the more shocking events that has happened in the tournament.
Thankfully for the holders, Leandro Gonzalez's second goal of the tie had put Estudiantes up two moments earlier, and when Leandro Benítez took over the match in the second half, El León cruised to a 4-1 aggregate victory.
The Estudiantes midfielder put the match away early in the second when he dispossessed Jesus Palacios just outside the San Luis area, clinically finishing to put the hosts up two. Four minutes later, Benítez collected a ball twenty meters out and rocketed a shot past Carlos Trejo for the final goal.
Benítez was one of the stars of last year's tournament, but amidst speculation that he was about to move to Europe, his play has slipped over the past year. On Wednesday, Benítez showed a rebirth of form, scoring his first goals since December's World Club Cup.
Estudiantes advances to take on the winner of Banfield-Internacional. That match moves back to Brazil Thursday, with Banfield up 3-1.
#10 Cruzeiro 3 (6) eliminates #7 Nacional 0 (1)
Goals by Thiago Ribeiro (his fourth of the tie), Diego Renan and Gilberto put Cruzeiro through in the most lopsided tie since Boca beat Gremio 5-0 in the 2007 final. The last half of this match was a aberration, featuring three red cards that left Nacional playing nine-on-ten at match's end.
Cruzeiro will face São Paulo in the quarterfinals were, like the Corinthians-Flamengo tie, one of the threats to win the tournament will be eliminated. Cruziero is the in-form team thanks to their handling of Nacional, with São Paulo's struggles to eliminate Universitario hinting at a vulnerability.
Given the familiarity these teams have with each other, the form guide against other teams goes out the window. More informative to determining a favorite: these teams met at this stage of last year's competition.
Unfortunately for São Paulo, the Tricolor lost that tie, 4-1.