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The first half was as awful as can be and the second half was awful, just not as awful. In the end, Cerro Porteno got a somewhat fortunate goal answered by Jaguares just before the final whistle for a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Copa Libertadores quarterfinal in Chiapas. Now all Cerro has to do is get a draw at home in next week's second leg and they are through to the semifinals despite playing as boring football as anyone will see.
Jaguares played without their best player, Jackson Martinez, as he sat with with suspension and while they tried to attack, they struggled to beat a Cerro team committed to defending above all. Cerro just had no interesting in taking the slightest of chances, preferring to put all but one player behind the ball for most of the match.
Robert Nanni spent most of the match as that one Cerro player not behind the ball and he almost got a goal, but when the Jaguares offside trap failed and he was in on goal he kept the ball and kept the ball and kept the ball. Despite having plenty of time to put the ball past the keeper, he inexplicably held on and eventually had it tackled away.
Nanni's chance was the closest Cerro came and they were happy with it. A scoreless draw was good enough for them by the look of their terrible anti-football play in which they didn't even try to get involved in the attack. When Jaguares attacked, a foul was preferred and everyone in attendance would have been wise to cover their eyes.
That is why it was a shame when Cerro finally scored. Jonathan Fabbro had the ball fall to him straight away and his shot was mediocre, right on its way to the chest of the keeper in the middle of the goal, but it clipped the leg of a Jaguares defender and deflected into the goal.
Amazingly, Jaguares found themselves a late goal to save all. Just before the final whistle Antonio Pedroza rose to a cross and headed the ball off the post and in for an equalizing goal. The goal at least kept Cerro from winning and restored a modicum of footballing justice.
If you hate football, the first leg of the Copa Libertadores quarterfinal between Jaguares and Cerro Porteno is probably why. The two teams are tied at 0-0 at halftime in Chiapas, Mexico without either side really doing anything that resembles attacking. A couple fouls 30 yards from goal is the only thing that has resembled a dangerous attack.
Jaguares are the cinderella team from Mexico who frankly, are not not as good as the top teams in the tournament. They've found a way to advance though and are the team that most neutrals will be drawn to. The problem is that they are a step below and tonight are playing without Jackson Martinez, who is out with a suspension. An underdog playing without their best player will probably be limited.
On the other hand, Cerro just has no interest in really playing. They're content to take a 0-0 draw and are playing boring times boring with a little bit of boring thrown in. If you need a soccer club to dislike, turn this match on and watch Cerro. You'll have your club to hate before long.
One Paraguayan team has already gone down tonight in Copa Libertadores. Velez Sarsfield got the better of Libertad, 3-0, in the first leg of the two-legged quarterfinals and now Cerro Porteno will look to avoid the same fate as their countrymen in Mexico. Jaguares is in a 5-4-1, but they do get their wingbacks forward to provide more attack that the formation would lead on, while Cerro Porteno is going with five in the midfield in hopes of controlling the center.
Jaguares have been the surprising team in Libertadores by reaching the quarterfinals and will look to continue their amazing run with a good result at home in Chiapas in tonight's first leg. Cerro Porteno is undoubtedly the favorite, but if Jaguares can get a win in the first leg and put all the pressure on Cerro Porteno for the second leg, things could get interesting.
Jaguares (5-4-1): Lopez - Serrano, Fuentes, Valdez, Martinez, Hernandez - Zamora, Manso, Andrade, Rodriguez - Salazar
Cerro Porteno (4-5-1): Barreto - Uglessich, P. Benitez, C. Benitez, Piries - Villareal, Nunez, Fabgro, Burgos, Torres - Nanni
If Libertad are to advance to the semifinals of Copa Libertadores they will have to have quite a match when they return home for the second leg of their quarterfinal tie against Velez Sarsfield. From the start Velez was superior, led by the creativity of Ricardo Alvarez and finishing of Juan Manuel Martinez, and the home side came away 3-0 winners to take firm control of the tie. Now Velez merely needs a two-goal loss or better on Wednesday at Libertad to secure advancement.
Velez jumped ahead in the 20th minute when Augusto Fernandez intercepted a lazy pass on the right and was fouled. Fernandez fell, but quickly recovered and the referee played advantage. He played a low cross towards Martinez, who dummied and left it for Maxi Moralez to finish into an empty net and Velez were off and running.
Libertad did their best to control the center of the pitch and did a decent job of knocking the ball around for the remainder of the first half, but they lacked any creativity and Velez began to find the scintillating Alvarez, who was almost singlehandedly opening the field up for Velez every time he touched the ball.
In the second half Velez continued to find Alvarez. His threat pushed the Libertad defense and midfield deeper, making their task of leveling nearly impossible because they were so deep. Playing through Alvarez, Velez took complete control of the match and went ahead 2-0 when a clumsy challenge resulted in a clear-cut penalty. Martinez took it and finished well with the goalkeeper diving the opposite direction.
That wasn't enough for Velez though and Martinez began the move that led to the third goal by finding Alvarez. With all eyes turned to Alvarez, he simply took a couple touches before threading a ball back to a sprinting Martinez, who was in alone on goal. Martinez unleashed a strong strike, but it was right at the keeper. Even so, Tobias Alvarez only put a weak hand on the ball and it went in for a 3-0 Velez lead, the scoreline that would hold until fulltime.
Things continue to get worse for Libertad. Down 1-0 at half they would have be happy enough to take that scoreline and go home for the second leg of the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals in search of a two-goal win to advance. Instead, they gave away a penalty that made it 2-0 and now some beautiful attacking football by Velez, hesitant defending and poor goalkeeping has pushed that lead to 3-0 with Libertad looking sunk and Velez on to the semifinals.
Velez broke quickly and got the ball to Juan Manuel Martinez, who scored the penalty for Velez. He played the ball to RIcardo Alvarez, who has been a handful and a half for Libertad and he proved to be once again. The exciting midfielder played a perfect ball back to Martinez who was in on goal and struck the ball with a ton of pace. As much pace as it had, it was right at Tobias Vargas. Vargas only got a weak hand to it though and the ball went over the line for what might be the nail in Libertad's coffin.
Juan Manuel Martinez had his hand in Velez Sarsfield's first goal, dummying a low cross for Maxi Moralez to finish in the first half. This time he finished a penalty to put the Argentinean side up 2-0 in the first leg of this Copa Libertadores quarterfinal. Two goals up and having not given up an away goal, Velez are in a great spot. If this result holds, they can go to Libertad for the second leg, lose by a goal and still advance on to the semifinals.
The penalty was clear as day and the referee did not hesitate in the slightest to point to the spot. While Velez did not have a clear chance at goal, they had passed the ball into the box and a slight side-step caught a defender clumsily reaching for a tackle. The attacker went down, the referee pointed to the spot and Martinez went left with the penalty while keeper went right and Velez were up 2-0.
Through 45 minutes, Velez Sarsfield are in a good position of their Copa Libertadores quarterfinal tie against Libertad. The Argentinean side got a goal from Maxi Moralez to go ahead of the Paraguayans and have held on to that lead going into half. The two keys for the home side in the first leg of a two-legged tie is to win and keep the opponents scoreless so as to keep the edge in away goals and to this point Velez has done that.
The Velez goal started with Augusto Fernandez, who was fouled and hit the turf, but he popped up quickly and continued on with the ball while the referee played advantage. Fernandez played in a good low cross towards Juan Manuel Martinez. Instead of playing the cross though, Martinez dummied, leaving it for Moralez, who was all alone with the keeper nowhere to be found and finished to put the home side up a goal in the 20th minute.
Just because Velez has been sound at the back doesn't mean they have been content to take a 1-0 win. They have found opportunities to push forward and had themselves a decent penalty shout just before halftime, but the it was waved off by the referee.
Meanwhile, Libertad has done a decent job in the midfield and hasn't given Velez too many chances, but they've struggled to do much in the final third. Time after time they knocked the ball around in the middle, got into the final third and then gave it away trying to make the near-impossible pass. A 1-0 loss wouldn't be too poor of a result for Libertad, but if they are to lose by a goal, they would much rather at least have an away goal to their name.
Velez Sarsfield and Libertad are set to do battle from Buenos Aires in the 2011 Copa Libertadores quarterfinals, and both lineups have some interesting talking points to them. Velez are without starting striker Santiago Silva, and reports are that Maxi Moralez will move up into a striker role. However, Moralez is an incredibly talented player with a varied skill set, so don't be surprised if this is something different than a straight-forward 4-4-2 setup.
The same can be said for Libertad. They have Rodolfo Gamarra playing out wide, but he can play as a striker. Their lineup is listed as a 4-4-2, but it wouldn't be surprising to see them try something unorthodox, just like Velez. Here are your lineups for tonight's match.
Velez Sarsfield lineup (4-4-2): Barovero; Cubero, Domínguez, Ortíz. Papa; Fernández. Razzotti. Zapata; Ramírez. Moralez, Martínez
Libertad lineup (4-4-2): Vargas; Bonet, Portocarrero, Canuto, Samudio; Aquino, Cáceres, Ayala, Gamarra; Maciel, Pavlovich
Kickoff is at 7:15 pm ET and the game can be seen on Fox Deportes in the United States.
No Paulo Henrique Ganso? No problem! Santos FC now have a commanding lead in their Copa Libertadores quarterfinal tie with Once Caldas after pulling off a 1-0 win away in Colombia. Once Caldas now have to travel to Sao Paulo, where they will have to pull off the same miracle that they pulled off in the last round by winning in Brazil.
Incredibly, it was Ganso's replacement who scored the goal. Young Alan Patrick, starting in Ganso's absence, scored the game's only goal in the 42nd minute, assisted by Santos' biggest superstar, Neymar. Ganso and Neymar have made a fearsome connection for the last two years in South America, but if tonight is any indication, Alan Patrick is almost as good as the man he replaced.
Of course, that aforementioned comeback against Cruzeiro means that Santos can ill afford to let their guard down in the return leg. They're serious favorites at this point, but the tie is not over.
On Wednesday night, Universidad Catolica's Paulo Garces had what was almost certainly one of the oddest games of his career. He made nine saves, a few of them very good. Peñarol battered the UC goal with shots, and most of them did not go into the back of the net.
However, two of those shots did go into the goal, and both were the fault of Garces. Thanks to his two goalkeeping errors, with the finishes applied by Alejandro Martinuccio and Juan Manuel Olivera, Peñarol walked out of the first leg of their Copa Libertadores quarterfinal tie in Uruguay with a 2-0 lead. UC, who have been among the most in-form teams in South America, now have some serious work to do in Santiago.
Catolica struggled to create chances Wednesday evening as Peñarol put in a fantastic performance. The hosts probably should have scored more than twice, but only got on the scoreboard on the two Garces errors. In any event, they will be thrilled with the 2-0 result, and they will be favorites to advance to the semifinals.
Universidad de Chile might be the most in-form team in all of South America, but through 45 minutes of the first leg of their Copa Libertadores tie against Peñarol, they find themselves trailing 1-0 in Uruguay. The home side came to play tonight, and they've created many more shooting opportunities than their opponents have. However, they still needed a mistake to get onto the scoreboard.
Peñarol probably deserve to be leading based on their first half play, but they still need to thank UC goalkeeper Paulo Garces for aiding them in gaining a lead, as it was his awful error that lead to the goal scored by Juan Manuel Olivera.
Based on not just their deficit, but how they played in the first half, UC might be looking to make some halftime adjustments. An away loss in the first leg is not the end of the world, but an away goal would certainly help their cause considerably.
The 2011 Copa Libertadores is down to the quarterfinal stage, and while some giants have been upset, the competition still includes two of the most in form teams in all of South America. Both Velez Sarsfield and Universidad Catolica top the table in their domestic leagues, and they were both extremely impressive in the last round of this competition. Along with the likes of Santos FC of Brazil, they make up a strong final eight that should produce some entertaining action.
Peñarol Vs. Universidad Catolica
Wednesday, 6:30 pm ET
Both Peñarol and Universidad Catolica are teams who are very adept at counter-attacking down the wings, and their play in that department is what has gotten both this far. UC are in great form and they rested all of their players at the weekend, so it will be interesting to see if Peñarol adapts against a team that plays the same style with slightly more talented and in-form players.
Once Caldas Vs. Santos FC
Wednesday, 8:50 pm
After losing away to Cruzeiro, Once Caldas appeared to be bowing out of the competition. Miraculously, they pulled off a big win in Brazil, and now they're set to face another Brazilian giant in the quarterfinals. Santos are certainly the more talented team in this tie, but they will be without Paulo Henrique Ganso, who is injured and out for the next month. It remains to be seen how much of an impact that will have on Santos.
Velez Sarsfield Vs. Libertad
Thursday, 7:15 pm
Velez, like UC, rested some stars in their most recent domestic game. Maxi Moralez only played 30 minutes, while forwards Santiago Silva and Juan Manuel Marquez were left out entirely. Those players will need to be rested against Libertado, who did brilliantly to record a huge comeback win against Fluminense in the last round. They won their second leg match 3-0 to go through on aggregate 4-3, and they could have scored many more times.
Jaguares de Chiapas vs. Cerro Porteño
Thursday, 9:30 pm
Jaguares produced a miracle result in a fantastic comeback against Atletico Junior, but one of the resulting externalities from that thrilling game is the suspension of Jaguares star striker Jackson Martinez, who was shown a straight red card for fighting. Even without him, Jaguares will attack and attempt to bring Cerro out of their shell. In their Round of 16 tie, they sat back for 210 minutes to force penalties, which they went through on.
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