Vasco da Gama vs Libertad
Estadio São Januário
(0-0) 2-0 – Juninho Pernambucano 53′, Alecsandro 62′
Libertad suffered their third defeat in four games in all competitions and have lost the overall lead of Group 5 in the Copa Libertadores with last night’s defeat in Rio de Janeiro. The introduction of veteran Juninho Pernambucano was key for Vasco da Gama as the 37-year-old scored a sensational goal to break a resilient Libertad defence and turn the tide of the closely fought game.
Jorge Burruchaga went for a defensive 4-5-1 formation leaving Cristian Menendez up front on his own and replacing the suspended José Ariel Nuñez with another central midfielder, Victor Ayala. The ploy seemed to work in the first 45 minutes as Libertad allowed Vasco the ball before squeezing them in their half to win it back. Libertad were good in possession, they looked to build attacks not just fast counters which brought about the best chance of the half on 27 minutes when a searching pass found Civelli on the left wing. The Argentine raced clear only to drag his shot wide. The Gumarelo were called into defensive action as Vasco had chances towards halftime in an end to end finish, like two boxers trading blows but neither could deliver the knockout punch.
The game was certainly too tight to call and as we see so many times in games of this nature it needs a stroke of genius or moment of absurd quality to mark the difference, that came on 53 minutes from 2nd half substitute Juninho Pernambucano. Vasco had started the final period ferouciously and Alecsandro had come close first with a near post header in the side netting and then forcing Muñoz into a good save in the lead up to the breathtaking goal. A poor corner from the former Lyon midfielder was returned to him by a Libertad head and seeing Muñoz slightly out of position he went for goal whipping it in and beating the Uruguayan goalkeeper at the near post.
That was the kick start Vasco needed and it seemed to knock the stuffing out of Libertad who have definitely lacked confidence in recent games. They doubled their lead ten minutes later and another substitute Allan was the catalyst. He picked out Alecsandro, who had drifted between the two centrebacks, with an excellent pass and the striker tapped it in. There were little chances for Libertad who used all their subsitutes, they kept gambling forward and at one point Vasco had a 3 vs 2 to kill off the game but combined to mess it up. In the last ten minutes the Pablo Velazquez nearly got a long awaited second goal of 2012, firstly he made a bit of space and decided to try his luck from outside the area producing a good save from Fernando Prass. From the resulting corner he picked up the loose ball and took on the Vasco defence using his strength to bustle through the crowd and get his shot away, the ball brushed the side netting but it took two replays for this blog to understand why a goal wasn’t given. It was that close!
Libertad can take heart from the first half performance but the result leaves them in a slightly more precarious situation than expected in the group, especially if Nacional (URU) win next week’s home game to put themselves just one point behind Libertad ahead of their visit to Asunción. Burruchaga needs to rediscover the winning formula and quickly.
Libertad XI: R.Muñoz; C.Bonet, J.Bizera, I.Benegas, M.Samudio; R.Gamarra, V.Caceres, S.Aquino, L.Civelli; P.Velazquez, C.Menendez
Subs: P.Velazquez for R.Gamarra, N.Camacho for L.Civelli, M.Melgarejo for V.Ayala
By Ralph Hannah