While Lionel Messi scored for Barcelona in Spain, across the Atlantic his cousins Maxi and Emanuel Biancucchi netted goals in Asunción on Saturday and Sunday respectively. But while Maxi scored the only goal of the game to keep Olimpia top of the league, Emanuel scored what turned out to be nothing more than a consolation penalty as his Independiente side were mauled 5-2 by a rampant Nacional. The Ricardo Gregor stadium is where we kick off…
Independiente vs Nacional
Estadio Ricardo Gregor
(1-2) 2-5 – Emanuel Biancucchi (pen) 31′, Herminio Miranda (og) 83′; Denis Caniza 15′, Javier Gonzalez 45+1′ & 54′, Angel Orué 64′, Ricardo Teixeira 71′
This weekend I visited Independiente’s ground for the first time to watch Sunday’s early kick off between Alicio Solalinde’s strugglers and Javier Torrente’s title challengers. Just ten minutes before kick off a black cat ran past the stand, it was clearly an omen as Independiente played well for 45 minutes only to be beaten out of sight.
The game began with neither team fashioning an opening, Nacional were better in the middle where Marcos Riveros and the excellent Silvio Torales controlled posession and the tempo of the game. Independiente however were dangerous on the wings with Francisco García, on loan from Cerro Porteño, showing excellent movement and technique on the left hand side, supported ably by his full back Richard Lugo. But that left gaps to be exposed and after 15 minutes the Nacional right back Denis Caniza profited with an excellent volley from Ramón Caceres’ cross on the left. Caceres had got in behind the Inde defense thanks to Torales incisive pass despite having little space to work in. On the half hour mark Independiente got a deserved equaliser via an undeserved penalty, Emanuel Biancucchi was allegedly fouled and brushed himself off to score from twelve yards. It came at a time when the home side had been creating chances with García drifting inside and Luis Miño linking well with his strikers. Nacional had taken their foot of the gas after the goal and there was often 30-40 yards between the midfield and two strikers as they visitors were forced deeper and deeper.
Both sides threatened to take the lead before halftime, first Caniza had space on the right to put in a wonderful cross for Angel Orué but the big number nine headed wide, down the other end Miño nearly replicated his ‘golazo’ against Olimpia with a dangerous dipping shot from distance tipped over by Ignacio Don. In the end Independiente went into the break a goal down thanks to some shocking defending. A routine long ball to Orué (Nacional’s strategy throughout the half) saw the lanky striker win a freekick, Javier Gonzalez was quick thinking at tapped the ball to Ariel Bogado who returned the ball to Gonzalez in the area to finish. 2-1, halftime and Independiente bemused and demoralised.
If that goal on the second stroke of halftime knocked Independiente, the third goal killed them as it opened the floodgates in 17 forgetful minutes. Nacional were gifted the ball and a searching pass should have been cut out by Lugo but he was too weak and allowed Gonzalez to nick it from him and finish with aplomb. The next goal was down the left, Caceres muscling past his man to square to Orué for a simple tap in. Four became five when substitute Carlos Ruiz Peralta carved out some space on the right before passing to Caniza, the right back found another sub, Ricardo Teixeira, with a clever cross who chested down to poke home. The consolation, Herminio Miranda’s comic own goal, didn’t raise a smile amongst Independiente’s players or directors who aired their complaints to the club president before entering the home dressing room after the game to let the footballers know more was expected of them.
As for Nacional they now go into the crunch Copa Libertadores with Corinthians full of confidence and still in title-challenging territory.
Independiente XI: B. Hermosilla; R. Martínez, M. Godoy, M. Almirón, R. Lugo; V. Dávalos, J. Báez, L. Miño, F. García, E. Biancucchi, I. Iriberri
Subs: C. Machuca for F. García,
Nacional: Ignacio Don; R. Mazacotte, H. Miranda, Denis Caniza, David Mendoza, Carlos Ruiz Peralta, Marcos Riveros, Javier Villarreal, S. Torales, A. Orué, A. Bogado
Subs: C. Ruiz Peralta R. Teixeira W. Pereira
Olimpia vs Sol de América
Estadio Para Uno
(0-0) 1-0 – Maxi Biancucchi 63′
Olimpia fresh from their heroics against Flamengo and looking ahead to their Buenos Aires showdown on Tuesday with Lanús had to overcome a stubborn Sol side to remain top of the league.
The first half ended goalless with Olimpia in control but without somebody at the sharp end of things, with Luis Caballero and Pablo Zeballos rested it was the turn of Sergio Almirón and Maxi Bianucchi to start up front. Both missing excellent chances in the early stages, Biancucchi losing his footing after a one-two with Alberto Contrera put him through on goal while his partner headed wide from a Sebastián Ariosa cross. Sol’s main tactic was to try and get balls over the top to José Ortigoza but their best chances came from headers. On 23 minutes David Mendieta got on the end of Angel Enciso’s centre but somehow Martin Silva got down to the ball, a world class save. Four minutes before the break Edgar Segovia sent a weak header into the floor which subsequently reached Silva’s gloves after a deflected freekick had given the Danzarín defender a golden opportunity.
In the second half Olimpia survived a penalty shout, Ortigoza went down under Salustiano Candia’s hefty challenge and replays indicate a spotkick would have been a fair decision. After 60 minutes came the turning point of the match, Zeballos replaced Almirón and his impact was profound. He brought verve to Olimpia’s offense almost immediately latching onto a through ball and causing Sol’s defenders to get disorganisedwith his surging runs from deep. Three minutes after his substitution and El Decano were ahead, Zeballos played a slick one-two with Contrera before putting in Biancucchi, it was the Argentine’s hardest chance of the game but he found the net, scooping the ball over Roberto Acosta. That was Maxi’s first goal since the late winner against Nacional six games earlier.
Sol had no way past Silva who pulled off another fantastic save from a header in the 76th minute, this time down to his left from Alfredo Rojas. Ortigoza cut a frustrated figure on the eve of his 25th birthday and late on his cross to find substitute Enzo Prono was cut out by Enrique Meza who has been in commanding form in recent weeks. Olimpia held on for the victory and it was no surprise, their last 13 triumphs have been by a single goal.
Olimpia XI: M.Silva; R.Revoredo, S.Candia, A.Romero, S. Ariosa; O. Hobecker, F.Caballero, C.Paredes, A.Contrera; M. Biancucchi, S.Almirón
Subs: E.Meza for A.Romero, P.Zeballos for S.Almirón, F.Nájera for R.Revoredo
Sol de América XI: R. Acosta; R.Bonet, E.Segovia, R.Martínez , D.Ciz; R.Ocampo, A. Rojas, Á.Enciso, D. Mendieta; W. Mendieta, J. Ortigoza
Subs: E. Orzusa for A.Encisco, E.Prono for W.Mendieta, C.Dominguez for J.Ortigoza
Cerro Porteño vs Guaraní
Estadio La Olla
(0-0) 1-0 – Santiago Salcedo 48′
Like Olimpia, Cerro were made to battle but got the only goal of the game as the two rivals continue to battle it out at the top of the table. Travelling back from the Independiente game, I missed the goalless first half, but the two key moments were shortly after the recommencement of the second period.
48 minutes had gone when Julio Dos Santos, in his deeper role picked out Santiago Salcedo with a wonderful pass, the 30-year-old striker had moved in between the two centrebacks, controlled the ball with his chest and scored with a terrific scissor kick. It was his fourth goal in six games and was enough to sink Guaraní who now have just one goal in their last three games despite playing well in all three. Salcedo was then involved moments later when Cerro were awarded a penalty, Jorge Rojas sliced through the Aborigen defense before being clumsily chopped down by Luis Cabral, the defender saw his second red card of the season for what was a very similar challenge that saw him sent off against Rubio Ñu. Salcedo stepped up but the spotkick lacked direction and power as it trickled into Joel Silva’s grateful arms.
Salcedo nearly made amends with a vicious shot that was well saved by Silva and in general Cerro Porteño looked motivated and showed good energy in midfield as they kept pushing to extend their lead. In theory the numerical advantage and their will to keep going forward should have suited the home side but Guaraní managed to take advantage of the space despite being down to ten men. Dante Lopez rounded Barreto but took the ball too far and was unable to get a shot on target, later Barreto made a super stop with his left hand to deny Guaraní an equaliser.
The result means Cerro continue just two points behind Olimpia with one more game until the Superclásico meanwhile Guaraní have suffered the same fate a few times this season, unable to take all three points because they just lack that finishing touch up front.
Cerro Porteño: D. Barreto; M. Corujo, M. Uglessich, P. Benítez, L. Cardozo; J. Rojas, J. Dos Santos, A. González, J. Fabbro; É. Benítez, S. Salcedo
Subs: F. Oviedo for E. Benitez, I.Torres for E. Benitez, L. Caceres for J. Dos Santos
Guaraní: J. Silva; E. Filippini, L. Cabral, J. Manzur, E. Marecos; N. Romero, M. Palau, D. Figueredo, B. Cáceres; D. Ocampo; D. López
Subs: F.Escobar for B.Caceres, C.Hidalgo for D. Lopez, P.Chavez for D.Figueredo
Red Card: Luis Cabral (professional foul)
OFF THE BALL
Almirón Angry: The Independiente central defender walked off the pitch and instead of heading right to the dressing room he went left towards the car park and specifically a fan who had been laying into him for the heavy defeat. Fortunately he was held back by friends and the fan was dragged away. Almost 30 minutes later when Almirón emerged from the dressing room his family asked “Who was that you nearly had a fight with?” – the response was a grunt, he clearly hadn’t calmed down.
Team of the Week: Diego Barreto (Cerro Porteño); Denis Caniza (Nacional), Luciano Vera (Tacuary), Pedro Benitez (Cerro Porteño), Sebastián Ariosa (Olimpia); Julio Dos Santos (Cerro Porteño), Silvio Torales (Nacional), Fabio Caballero (Olimpia), Eduardo Echeverría (Carapeguá); Javier Gonzalez (Nacional), Pablo Velazquez (Libertad)
Player of the Week: I was tempted to give Eduardo Echeverría an honorary mention as the Carapeguá midfielder has now joined José Ortigoza at the top of the list but as I didn’t see him play it would be a slightly blind decision. Therefore this week’s winner is veteran full back Denis Caniza who scored a good goal, got an assist and was generally a pest all day down Nacional’s right hand side.
Goal of the Week: Salcedo’s scissor kick by far
Donkey of the Week: The barra or barras of Cerro Porteño fighting amongst themselves in the stands making it unsafe for families who want to go to a game and not pay a fortune. It should be of huge embarrassment to J.J.Zapag and his board of directors that they are still unable to control this the same weekend that their arch-rivals Olimpia were launching a new ‘smart card’ ticketing system for their socios. As one club moves forward the other stays stuck in the past.
Results: Cerro PF 0-2 Libertad, Olimpia 1-0 Sol, Independiente 2-5 Nacional, Luque 1-1 Rubio Ñu, Carapeguá 1-1 Tacuary, Cerro Porteño 1-0 Guaraní
Intermedia Results: 2 de Mayo 1 – 2 3 de Febrero, Resistencia 1 – 4 Sportivo Trinidense, Fernando de la Mora 2 – 3 Sportivo Iteño, General Caballero ZC 2 – 2 29 de Setiembre, Deportivo Capiatá 5 – 0 Atl River Plate, Paranaense FC 0 – 0 General Díaz, Sport Colombia 0- 1 Atl. Colegiales, Deportivo Santaní 0 – 0 Sp. San Lorenzo
By Ralph Hannah