Libertad vs Vasco da Gama
Estadio Nicolas Leoz
(0-1) 1-1 – José Ariel Nuñez 71′; Diego Souza 17′
Libertad failed to win but ultimately remain in the driving seat in Group 6 with a draw against their closest rivals Vasco da Gama of Brazil. In what was a cat and mouse first half, Vasco took advantage of a shaky start from the home side to take the lead but the dismissal of scorer Diego Souza (a rather unpleasant incident) handed the initative back to the Gumarelo who equalised and could have even won had their goalscorer, José Ariel Nuñez, not suffered the same fate as Souza.
In a fairly open start, Vasco were the first to register a shot on target after five minutes but it was directed straight at Rodrigo Muñoz. Libertad countered with a golden chance for Civelli, Rodolfo Gamarra was regulary coming in off his flank as Nuñez pulled defenders into the right hand channel and won a free kick. Miguel Samudio’s set piece wasn’t dealt with by the Vasco defence and it came out to Luciano Civelli who uncharacteristically blazed over.
Vasco took the lead through a dead ball of their own, without Juninho Pernambucano in the side the responsibility was on defender Fagner (recently included in Mano Menezes’ pre-Olympic squad) who put in a dangerous ball headed in by a stooping Souza. Libertad had paid the price for committing too many fouls inside their own half, there had been a spate of free kicks previously which allowed Fagner to test his range. Libertad were not at their best but in the last 15 minutes of the half they began to press better and were winning possession higher up the field which inevitably led to more chances. Cristian Menendez and Nuñez, who had done very well pulling into the channel, both shot wide. The best chance fell to Gamarra on 36 minutes when Vasco lost the ball trying to break again, and it reached Civelli in the box who squared to an onrushing Gamarra, the Paraguayan wasted another chance to test the goalkeeper, shooting over.
Libertad came out in the second half with the same plan, press and mark hard to really get amongst the Brazilian visitors who wanted a slower tempo having taken the lead. On 53 minutes it all got too much for Souza, he responded to Ismael Benegas close attentions by elbowing the defender in the chest. The red card was fully justified but it caused outrage for Souza who clearly believed this part of the game is allowed, he refused to leave the pitch and soon both sets of players began pushing and shoving with Jorge Burruchaga trying to calm his squad as even substitutes began squaring up to one another. As Souza finally departed he pushed the 4th official indicating he had just wanted to get a bottle from the bench. Replays later show that Souza threw that bottle at Libertad fans – a really sad spectacle and a terrible advert for Brazilian football.
Burruchaga responded by going with three up front, brining on Pablo Velazquez for Gamarra and the Argentine coach got it spot on because on 71 minutes the home side had pulled level with Velazquez getting the assist. Samudio had too much time on the left to weigh up his options, his deep swinging cross was nodded back into the path of Nuñez who controlled and finished well with his second touch for his second goal in the competition.
The game was now there for the taking and Libertad should have won it, Civelli shot over again after a fierce Topo Caceres shot was diverted into his path, Caceres again was the catalyst when he crossed for Velazquez who couldn’t direct his header. A goal was coming until the 82nd minute when Nuñez tripped a Vasco player to earn himself his second booking – he claimed later it was “unfair” but by the letter of the law the referee was right to book the player who didn’t need to make the challenge. There was more incident to follow, Samudio who had become increasingly hotheaded should have been sent off having kicked out after being fouled but the referee missed the incident. Then both sides nearly won it at the death, first Felipe shot inches wide following a mazy run by Vasco’s teenager Barbio, in stoppage time Victor Ayala let fly from distance forcing a good save from Fernando Prass in goal. A draw in the end was a fair result with neither team doing enough to win it.
Libertad XI: R.Muñoz; C.Bonet, N.Bareiro, I.Benegas, M.Samudio; R.Gamarra, V.Caceres, S.Aquino, L.Civelli; J.A.Nuñez, C.Menendez
Subs: P.Velazquez for R.Gamarra, M.Caballero for C.Menendez, V.Ayala for S.Aquino
Red Card: J.A.Nuñez (2nd Yellow)
By Ralph Hannah