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Two of the Thursday matches in Copa Libertadores were fairly straightforward one-goal wins by teams in better form than their opponents. And then there was Godoy Cruz vs. Atletico Nacional. The teams traded blows in a ridiculously open match, eventually scoring eight goals between them.
Emelec defended well in this one and goalkeeper Esteban Dreer had a good game, but there was nothing they could do about Flamengo's goal. Ronaldinho set it up with a stellar heel flick into the path of Vagner Love, who placed a perfect low finish past Dreer at the far post in the 48th minute. That goal would be all they needed to secure all three points and go top of Group 2.
Between these two, La U and Peñarol, Group 8 doesn't seem to have a competent defensive unit between the four teams. Colombian international Dorlan Pabon scored twice in the second half, with his second goal putting Atletico Nacional ahead 4-3, but Leandro Caruso scored the equalizer for Godoy Cruz in the 89th minute, completing his hat trick. Every one of the eight goals featured some comically bad defending and/or goalkeeping.
Talk about a disaster for Atletico Junior. They were one of last year's knockout stage participants, but they appear to be going down in flames even though they were tipped as favorites to advance out of Group 3 by many. Bolivar now sit on four points, thanks to William Ferreira's 80th minute winner. Junior really shouldn't be losing at home to anyone in this group, let alone the favorites for last place.
Neymar stole the show in Copa Libertadores on Wednesday night, scoring a hat trick for Santos. Elsewhere in South America, Velez Sarsfield and Boca Juniors were disappointing while Corinthians won comfortably.
After a disappointing start to the Copa Libertadores, Santos reasserted their status as favorites in the competition with a dominating performance against Internacional. Neymar was absolutely masterful, scoring a hat trick and only narrowly missing with a couple of other opportunities. His first goal was a penalty, but his second was one of the goals of the season; he scored at the end of a jaw-dropping maze of a 70-yard run through the entire Inter defense before scoring with a simple chip.
Brazilian football's 'other' young eleventy billion dollar starlet Leandro Damiao scored a goal to get his team back into the match in the 63rd minute, but Neymar answered just a minute later with a goal that was almost as good as his first as he torched the Internacional defense in similar fashion, this time starting from the half-way line instead of well into his own half.
Most expected Velez to grab a draw away in Ecuador against a Deportivo Quito side that hasn't been playing particularly well, but they got absolutely stomped. At the end of an even first half, Velez's Sebastián Domínguez gave away a penalty, which was converted by Matias Alustiza. That shifted the momentum of the game considerably and led to a Deportivo-dominated second half. Just three minutes into the second half, Fidel Martinez Tenorio headed in a free kick by captain Luis Saritama -- just back from injury this week -- to give his team a 2-0 lead. Saritama completed the rout with a goal of his own in the 70th minute.
Well, there's no blaming Julio Falcioni's boring tactics for this one. Boca Juniors got 10 shots on target on Wednesday night but could only score once against Fluminense and the wall that was Diego. Fred scored the opening goal in the 9th minute, getting a header under Agustin Orion that the Boca keeper should have been able to stop. Flu took their 1-0 lead into halftime, but Boca answered just after the whistle.
After Diego made a brilliant stop on a seemingly perfect Juan Roman Riquelme free kick, Leandro Somoza tapped in the rebound to equalize. Boca would not be level long, as Deco went on to score what would ultimately be the winner in the 54th minute. Once again, Orion let the ball go under him and should have made a stop.
Corinthians' plan to rest some of their stars and give Santos a clear path to a win over the weekend ultimately paid off. They've made no secret about the fact that the Libertadores is their priority, and they looked solid -- if unspectacular -- in their home win over Nacional. Danilo scored the opener in the 38th minute after a sustained period of pressure, assisted by Ignacio Don with some bad goalkeeping. Jorge Henrique netted the second in the 67th minute, assisted by a Danilo cross.
Union Española did enough to keep their position on top of Group 3 on Tuesday, while Vasco da Gama recorded their first Copa Libertadores win this season and Universidad de Chile were held to a draw. Both Vasco and La U, despite being favorites in their groups coming into the competition, appear to have a lot of work left to do in order to get to get to the knockout stages.
A simple look at the box score tells much of the story in this match. UC showed up to kick and claw, and they did enough to earn a draw. They opened the scoring in the 39th minute, when Enzo Andia finished off a free kick by Michael Ríos with a brilliant header. Union Española would earn a penalty in the 42nd minute, when UC goalkeeper Cristopher Toselli smashed into Jorge Ampuero in the penalty area. The visitors were not happy with the referee, who made the correct decision.
Toselli saved Emanuel Herrera's first attempt, but a UC player clearly encroached right in front of the official and a retake of the penalty was ordered. Again, the Catolica players berated the referee after he made a correct decision. Ultimately, a total of three UC players would be booked for dissent before the end of the half. Incredibly, Toselli saved the retake as well, but Herrera was able to score on the rebound to equalize.
Emotions got the better of Catolica at the end of the game. Francisco Silva was sent off for a dangerous challenge in the 88th minute, and that was followed by Rodrigo Valenzuela seeing red after the whistle for dissent. A group of Catolica players went to abuse the officials at the end of the match, and they're lucky that only one of them will be suspended for it.
A combination of some more physical than usual play from La U and some questionable officiating helped Peñarol to grab a point, as the visiting side -- best known for their stylish and attacking brand of football -- were whistled for an astonishing 18 fouls. There's no taking away from Peñarol's goal, however. Andrés Freitas opened the scoring in the 21st minute with an absolute bullet of a shot into the back of the net from 20 yards out. La U would equalize in the 34th minute through Junior Fernandez, who scored an equally impressive goal on a volley from 12 yards.
Even though the calls didn't always go La U's way, Peñarol still attacked their visitors brilliantly, and Johnny Herrera had to make a number of good saves. If it wasn't for a great performance by the La U goalkeeper, Peñarol would have come away with all three points.
Vasco was dominant for most of their match against Alianza, but they allowed the Peruvians to score once with ten men, while their goals came on their only two shots on target. With the home side well in control early, Alianza struck first on the counter, with Sebastián Charquero taking advantage of a terrible defensive error by Rodolfo to put his team up in the 17th minute. Vasco would strike back just two minutes later, equalizing on a bad own goal by Christian Ramos.
Early in the second half, Alianza's Giancarlo Carmona was sent off for a handball in his own penalty area. Carmona did not deny a clear goal-scoring opportunity, but was already on a yellow from the first half and was sent off for picking up a second. Alecsandro stepped up to take the penalty, but slipped on his attempt and hit the crossbar.
Vasco would eventually take the lead through their star man, central defender Dedé. On a corner kick by Fágner, he rose above everyone and placed the ball perfectly at the back post to give his team the lead. Vasco had a chance to wrap up the game seven minutes later when Joazhiño Arroe gave away a penalty, but Solomon Libman made a miraculous save on Alecsandro's attempt. After two misses by Alecsandro, Vasco would change penalty takers.
Juninho Pernambucano scored the ultimate winner in the 80th minute, converting on a penalty after a José Fernández foul. Walter Fernando Ibañez stunned Vasco with an 85th minute goal that made things interesting late, but Alianza were unable to find an equalizer.
Universidad de Chile goes away to Peñarol on Tuesday, while Santos and Internacional play a marquee all-Brazilian clash on Wednesday.