Colón vs Cerro Porteño
Estadio Brigadier General Estinaislao López
(1-1) 1-2 – Lucas Mugni; Pedro Benítez, Roberto Nanni
Just days away from their 100th anniversary the Paraguay champions savoured a historic victory against Colón in Santa Fe, winning on Argentine soil for just the third time in their history. At times they controlled possession well while at times they relied on goalkeeper Diego Barreto who pulled off some jaw-dropping saves including one from the penalty spot, but ultimately Cerro must be praised for their positive approach which reaped rewards.
The visitors took the lead on 21 minutes, a flowing move resulted in a corner which Julio Dos Santos delivered towards Pedro Benítez who stooped to head home and send the 5,000 traveling fans into delirium. It also woke up Colon who began to look more threatening and particularly exploited the space on the flanks behind Cerro’s wing backs. Pedro Benítez himself almost put a cross into his own net but his misguided header was well saved by an alert Barreto. Barreto earned hero status five minutes before halftime by expertly saving Iván Moreno y Fabianesi’s penalty, guessing the right way and beating the spot kick away with an outstretched arm. The penalty was given after another cross, this time from the left, flew over the head of Paraguayan striker Jorge Achucarro at the backpost, however the referee adjudged the ex-Cerro man had been impeded by Cesar Benitez. The Colon equaliser was coming and it arrived on the stroke of halftime, a tame cross from the right was met with an even weaker clearance by Mariano Uglessich that fell into the path of Lucas Mugni. The 20-year-old midfielder finished well with his left foot and level the score as the teams entered the changing rooms.
The second half erupted into life on 51 minutes when the hot-headed Uruguayan Walter López clashed with striker Ruben Ramirez and the referee didn’t hesitate in giving the pair their marching orders. Then almost in direct response to the referee’s decision the ‘Elephant’s Graveyard’ was plunged into darkness by a power cut in the area. Fortunately the stoppage was only brief and the game could continue. I’ve spoken countless times of Cerro Porteño’s incredible scoring record in the final 15 minutes and once again they found the net late on into the game. In the preview I suggested Jorge Fossati would need to show his experience in this competition and the Uruguayan must have been pleased to see two substitutes combine for the winning goal. Edgar Gonzalez had come on for an extremely frustrated Rodrigo López to sure up the midfield and he won a 50/50 challenge in robust style before feeding the ball to Nanni who had entered the fray moments earlier. The 31-year-old forward lined up his defender before guiding a side-footed shot past the goalkeeper, an excellent finish from a natural goalscorer.
There was still time for more drama in this action-packed match as Colón searched for an equaliser, substitute Emanuel Gigliotti thought he had scored when he connected powerfully with a ball in from the left only for Barreto to tip the ball over the crossbar. In the dying moments Barreto was outjumped at a corner but the Colón defender was denied by the woodwork as Cerro Porteño fans continue to believe that 2012 is their year.
2nd leg: 23 October 2012, Asunción, Paraguay
By Ralph Hannah