There were impressive opening victories for three of the leading contenders for Copa Libertadores glory. Holders Estudiantes La Plata thrashed Group 3 rivals Juan Aurich 5-1, a brace from Washington helped Sao Paulo kick off their seventh consecutive Libertadores campaign with a 2-0 win against Monterrey in Group 2, while Velez Sarsfield sank last year’s runners-up Cruzeiro by the same scoreline in Group 7.
The last two available spots in the group phase were also taken this week. Emelec of Ecuador overcame Argentina’s Newell’s Old Boys and Chile’s Universidad Catolica won a thrilling preliminary-round tie against Colon, another Argentinian side to drop out at the first hurdle.
Game of the week
Universidad Catolica (CHI) 3-2 Colon (ARG)
Goals: David Henriquez 40, Rodrigo Toloza 75 and Juan Morales 83 – Universidad Catolica; Ivan Fabianesi 53 and Esteban Fuertes 56 - Colon
Beaten 3-2 in the first leg in Argentina, La Católica put in a superb display to level the tie overall and eventually take the match 5-3 on penalities with keeper Paulo Garces making two vital stops with his legs. The first half had firmly belonged to the Chilean outfit, who had the visitors under pressure from the outset and perhaps deserved more than a 1-0 interval advantage.
Colon, for whom keeper Diego Pozo had been their best player to that point, stormed out of the blocks after the break to score twice and take a 5-3 aggregate lead, while Universidad’s followers must have feared the worst after the home team subsequently missed a 67-minute spot kick. Yet two goals in the last 15 minutes set the stage for Garces’ shootout heroics, which sealed Los Cruzados’ place in Group 8 alongside Flamengo, Caracas and countrymen Universidad de Chile.
Lanus (ARG) 0-2 Libertad (PAR)
Goals: Rodolfo Gamarra 66 and Pedro Velazquez 73
In a further setback for the Argentinian contingent, Paraguay’s Libertad put in a textbook display of the defensive arts in Buenos Aires to frustrate El Granate’s high-tempo approach. Remaining steely at the back throughout, the visitors’ counter-attacking tactics bore fruit with two goals in seven second-half minutes and secured an ideal start to their Group 4 campaign.
Three more sides also picked up wins on their travels. Colombia’s Once Caldas, surprise continental champions in 2004, beat Paraguay’s Nacional 2-0, Alianza Lima of Peru won 3-1 at Bolivar and Peru’s Universitario followed Alianza’s example by winning 2-1 on Bolivian soil against Blooming.
Banfield, last year’s Argentinian Apertura champions, beat Morelia of Mexico 2-1 in a result sure to boost confidence ahead of Saturday’s domestic clásico with local rivals Lanus. Reigning Uruguayan champions Nacional of Montevideo, for their part, won 3-2 against Ecuador’s Deportivo Cuenca – thanks in large part to a double from ex-Valencia forward Mario Regueiro.
Player of the week
Mauro Boselli (Estudiantes)
Former Boca Juniors goalgetter Boselli, 2009 Libertadores top scorer with eight goals, went some way towards matching that tally with a hat-trick in El Pincha’s emphatic opening win over Juan Aurich. However, it was not enough for him to move to the top of the competition’s scorers’ charts, with Panama’s Luis Tejada taking his tally to four in three games with the visitors’ consolation strike.
41 – The number of goals scored in just 13 matches, at an impressive average of 3.15 a game. Libertadores followers will be hoping the remainder of the competition continues in the same vein.
What they said
“He only arrived today and still played. How can I explain that? Well, he’s a former Sao Paulo player and he’s had half a season under his belt (in Italy). It was a calculated risk: we analysed it beforehand and we felt that he could play 20 minutes or so.” Sao Paulo coach Ricardo Gomes on former Real Madrid full-back Cicinho, on loan from Roma, who played against Monterrey less than 20 hours after landing in Brazil on Wednesday morning.