Will Johnson of Real Salt Lake and Javier Aquino of Cruz Azul fight for a ball. Cruz Azul plays in Copa Libertadores on February 8, 2012. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Copa Libertadores 2012, Matchday 1: Cruz Azul Win, Vasco da Gama Upset

Cruz Azul posted an impressive away win in Copa Libertadores action on Wednesday, while Vasco da Gama disappointed in a home loss.

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Internacional Vs. Juan Aurich, 2012 Copa Libertadores: Easy Win For Hosts

Internacional began their 2012 Copa Libertadores campaign with a straightforward home victory against Juan Aurich. They Brazilians couldn't have had it much easier - their guests were thoroughly impotent even before being reduced to ten men 36 minutes into the match, and after Cesar Ortiz picked up his second yellow card it was simply a matter of seeing the game out.

By then the hosts had already gone 1-0 up, with Leandro doing an excellent job of holding up possession and allowing Oscar to blast past Diego Penny to open the scoring. The game would stay at 1-0 for most of the second half, although not for lack of effort on Internacional's part - the favourites came up with twenty shots to Juan Aurich's two - but the hosts would finally put the game to bed in the 81st minute, when Jesus Datolo slammed a rebound off the crossbar and in to make it 2-0. That goal would have defused the tension had there been any... but, of course, there really wasn't. 2-0 would hold as the final score, and Internacional start their Copa run in pretty much perfect fashion.


Copa Libertadores 2012, Matchday 1, Wednesday Recap: Cruz Azul, Union Española Impress; Vasco da Gama Does Not

Wednesday's Copa Libertadores action could have been a sign of things to come in the tournament, but Atletico Junior and Vasco da Gama will hope that it was simply an aberration. Those two teams, both favorites to advance from the group stages, were poor on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Union Española exceeded expectations while Cruz Azul met theirs, getting a good result to stay unbeaten in all competitions in 2012.

Union Española 2-0 Atletico Junior

Colombian side Junior is improved on paper from the team that went to the knockout stages of Copa Libertadores last season, and Group 3 does not contain any of the tournament favorites. They were favorites to advance in first or second place, but they didn't look anything like a knockout stage team on Wednesday. Perhaps they were simply affected by travel, but they were woeful on Wednesday, failing to get a shot on target.

The home side's first goal was scored by Emanuel Herrera in the 64th minute off of a corner kick, assisted by Fernando Cordero, who played a great flicked header from the near post to Herrera at the far post. Junior keeper Sebastian Viera saved Herrera's first attempt and almost stopped his second shot on the rebound, but couldn't stop the ball from going over the line. Cordero scored a goal of his own on accident just a minute later, mishitting a cross that found the back of the net at the far post.

Vasco da Gama 1-2 Nacional (URU)

Vasco played in front of a great crowd on Wednesday night and were expected to win, but things got off to a terrible start and they never really recovered. In the 30th minute, Nacional scored the opener on an own goal by Vasco's Dede, perhaps the best defender in South America. His poor, ill-advised attempt at a left-footed clearance on a corner kick sent the ball into his own net, giving Nacional a lead.

They doubled that lead less than a minute into the second half, through former Schalke and Cruz Azul man Vicente Sánchez. Following a bad giveaway, Tabaré Viudez swung in a cross from the right flank to the back post, where Sanchez was completely unmarked and able to hit a free header into the back of the net. Alecsandro would pull one back from a close-range finish on a terrific low cross by Juninho Pernambucano, but they could not complete the comeback. To add insult to injury, Renato Silva was shown a red card in stoppage time.

Nacional (PAR) 1-2 Cruz Azul

Cruz Azul opted to rest Omar Bravo, Javier Aquino and Fausto Pinto for their Copa Libertadores opener, but were still able to grab a big road win. Javier Orozco, the backup striker who has been key for the Blue Machine during their CONCACAF Champions League campaigns, got a start and made the most of it by scoring both of Cruz Azul's goals. The first came just five minutes in and was beautifully worked. 'Tito' Emmanuel Villa started the move with a chip to 'Chaco' Christian Gimenez, who controlled with his chest in the box before passing to Orozco for a tap-in.

The absence of Pinto was felt on Nacional's 20th minute goal, when Alejandro Vela -- operating on the left where Pinto usually plays -- committed a terrible giveaway that led to Ariel Bogado's equalizer. Cruz Azul would answer just five minutes later, however, and it was Chaco and Orozco who combined for the goal yet again. Gimenez unloaded an unbelievable 35-yard rocket of a shot that Germán Caffa did well to simply deflect, but Orozco was there to punch in the rebound and put Cruz Azul ahead for good.


Chivas Guadalajara Vs. Deportivo Quito, 2012 Copa Libertadores: Goats Snatch Late Draw

Chivas Guadalajara still have not won a competitive fixture in the year 2012, but they avoided getting embarrassed with a late equalizer against Deportivo Quito on Tuesday night. The Goats will already feel like they're in a hole when it comes to qualifying for the knockout stages of the 2012 Copa Libertadores, but they did something incredibly important in snatching two points away from their opponents in a 1-1 draw.

Things started terribly for Chivas, who went down 1-0 in just the 8th minute. On a long ball over the top to Matías Alustiza , the Chivas defense was nowhere to be found, save for Hector Reynoso. The Goats' captain didn't exactly do much to stop Alustiza, who turned Reynoso inside out twice before setting himself up for a 20-yard half volley to the near post. Despite the fact that Alustiza had been in a shooting position for nearly 10 seconds, Luis Michel looked completely perplexed by the shot and let it go by him.

Chivas were the slightly better side for most of the match as Deportivo Quito sat on their lead, but the home side didn't appear to have much of an answer and looked like they would drop all three points for most of the match. That was, until the second minute of second half stoppage time, when young left winger Julio Nava played a cross into the box.

Omar Arellano, through what seemed like sheer will and determination, somehow fairly beat Deportivo goalkeeper Marcelo Elizaga to the ball and headed it into the back of the net to make it 1-1. Elizaga was injured on the play and had to be substituted.

Even though Chivas needed a miracle just to nab a draw, both teams will see this as two points dropped in a brutal group. Velez Sarsfield looked like clear group favorites in the first match against Defensor Sporting, who are certainly better than their poor showing in that match. This group should be very much up for grabs until the very end of group play.


Fluminense Vs. Arsenal di Sarandi, 2012 Copa Libertadores: Flu Grab Win In Scrappy Match

Fluminense found an early goal against Arsenal di Sarandi in impressive fashion, but that would be one of the last moments of good football in the Copa Libertadores match between the two teams. This one featured very few clear-cut chances, but a whole lots of fouling and fighting. Flu was able to hold onto their lead and finish with a 1-0 win to grab three points, but they probably won't be pleased with their showing at home against a team with an average defense.

The goal was scored by Brazilian international and Fluminense captain Fred, who has been absolutely spectacular since joining from Olympique Lyonnais. His goal came on a neat finish from the edge of the penalty area, though Arsenal keeper Cristian Campestrini probably could have done a bit more to save it.

Following a foul by Arsenal's Hugo Nervo in the 74th minute, a fight between the two teams ensued which resulted in straight red cards for Arsenal's Nicolás Aguirre and Fluminense's Wagner. In the 89th minute, Leandro would pick up a red card of his own for a bad tackle. Group favorites Boca Juniors will be thrilled that their top rivals have significantly handicapped themselves with suspensions, even if they did grab three points.


Defensor Sporting Vs. Velez Sarsfield, 2012 Copa Libertatores: Velez Get Perfect Start

Velez Sarsfield wouldn't have been expecting a big win against Uruguay's Defensor Sporting in the opening match of the 2012 Copa Libertadores group stages, but they got one anyway as the hosts' famed defence let them down badly. A match devoid of many real chances was suddenly turned upside down when Defensor goalkeeper Yonratan Irrazabal piced up a backpass, and although David Ospina's initial close-range free kick was blocked the ball was cycled back into the box where Ospina was on hand to drive it home from 12 yards.

The hosts didn't have much reply, and by and large Velez had the better of the second half. With the game at 1-0, things would always be tense, however, and the game got fairly tetchy at one point. Fortunately for Velez, they were able to wrap things up when a rebound broke kindly for Ivan Obolo to make things secure with 81 minutes got. There was just enough time for Sebastian Dominguez to blast home a lovely free kick to make it 3-0, which is how it ended. It's the perfect start to Velez's Copa Libertadores campaign.

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