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.