Flamengo vs Olimpia
Estadio Joao Havelange
(1-0) 3-3 – Dario Botinelli 38′, Ronaldinho (pen) 59′, Luiz Antonio 64′; Pablo Zeballos 75′, Luis Caballero 84′, Vladimir Marín 89′
A night for Olimpia fans to savour in Rio de Janeiro as once again a team in red and black raced to a 3-0 lead only to see it clawed back by the weaker side on paper but with more steel, determination or in local vernacular garra. Ronaldinho began with his ponytail wagging imperiously about as he played ‘no-look’ passes and by the hour mark he was winning plaudits for his game-winning performance. That Flamengo didn’t win this game was thanks to an extraordinary comeback by Olimpia in the final fifteen minutes led by substitute Pablo Zeballos which earned El Decano a valuable point in this ultra-competitive group.
The Paraguayan champions were the better side in the first 20 minutes, rather than sitting back and countering they looked to keep possession and try and build play in and around the Brazilian’s box. Captain Sergio Orteman should have put them ahead on 13 minutes but his crashing header was denied by an amazing save on the line from Paulo Victor. Other than that chance Olimpia had a problem creating clear chances, they seemed to be short of ideas once they got into the final third. Flamengo nearly made them pay on 16 minutes, a swift move down the right and Wagner Love had the ball poked off his toes by a vital Adrian Romero interception.
Flamengo started to grow into the game before half time and Ronaldinho and Love began winning fouls and the referee found himself reaching for his yellow card three times in three minutes as Fabio Caballero, Eduardo Aranda and Orteman were booked. That might explain why, on 38 minutes, the Paraguayans backed off Love as he went on an intricate and incisive run close to the penalty area before slipping the ball to Argentine Dario Botinelli, the ex-San Lorenzo man chipped Martin Silva to put his side in front. Love would have the ball in the net before half time, with Ronaldinho playing the pass but was correctly ruled offside, it was a sign of things to come.
The first half an hour of the second half was catastrophic for Paraguay’s most successful club, less than a minute into the half and Silva had to make a jawdropping save to deny Ronaldinho. Olimpia were breaking quickly when they won the ball but by the time it got into Luis Caballero (nearly always with his back to goal) or Maxi Biancucchi, things slowed down and they seemed indecisive. Ronaldinho was purring at the other end, a ‘no look’ pass to Junior Cesar nearly brought a goal then minutes later Love turned Silva only to be tripped by the Uruguayan. Ronaldinho was made to wait, as Silva was being attacked by a laser pen from the crowd, but it was worth it – not for his emphatic finish but the ‘Kong’ dance afterwards, perfectly choreographed. It was game over at that point, Olimipa’s stamina was lacking as they took longer to reorganise after losing the ball, Friday’s game played with nine men clearly taking its toll. On 64 minutes Luiz Antonio put the final nail in the coffin with a cool finish following a breathtaking pass from Ronaldinho, cue more dancing.
Osvaldo Hobecker came on for a shattered Orteman in what was a defensive move but stimulated a resurgence within the away team that started with another substitute Pablo Zeballos. The striker has been struggling for fitness and been out of favour of late but made a case for his reinstatement in the starting lineup with a free kick that rocketed into the top corner. Even that seemed little more than a consolation but with six minutes to go Luis Nery Caballero continued his hot streak, a precise left foot shot from the edge of the box was his fourth in as many games. Fla then got a warning of what was to come, Vladimir Marín’s free kick found Enrique Meza and his header was well saved by the excellent Victor. But then with just a minute left on the clock Olimpia found their equaliser, good work by Zeballos found Biancucchi and the little Argentine dragged in players before released Marín on the left who drilled the ball home. “Que grande sos, Olimpia!” screamed Bruno Pont on Paraguayan radio and there can be no denying this was a huge result.
As Olimpia celebrated, Ronaldinho and co looked bewildered as if their party had been gatecrashed by ‘Bigger Boys’ who bullied their way back into a match and showed a tremendous desire not to lose under any cirumstances. The return game in Asunción is going to be unmissable.
Olimpia XI: M.Silva; F.Najera, A.Romero, E.Meza, S.Ariosa; E.Aranda, S.Orteman, F.Caballero, V.Marín; M.Biancucchi, L.Caballero
Subs: Pablo Zeballos for Eduardo Aranda, Osvaldo Hobecker for Sergio Orteman, Salustiano Candia for Luis Caballero