Tigre vs Cerro Porteño
Estadio Monumental de Victoria
(2-0) 4-2 – Echeverría, Botta, Santander, Donatti; S.Salcedo, Fabbro
There is an inevitability about it, Cerro Porteño eliminated from another continental competition in an epic game. Their previous elimination was June 2011 to Santos in the Copa Libertadores – a 3-3 draw on the night in a game that had everything including a wonderful goal from Jonathan Fabbro and a comic (or tragic) mistake from their usually solid goalkeeper Diego Barreto. Last night had six goals, a red card a floodlight failure and a Fabbro wondergoal before the heartache of Donatti’s strike that knocked them out.
Despite the scoreline, the Paraguayans were not outplayed – they had a host of chances at 0-0 with Nanni and Salcedo coming very close. As always they looked very comfortable in possession and have so many angles of attack with Dos Santos, Fabbro and the wing-backs López and Bonet that it was hard for Tigre to cope. It was the Barrio Obrero club’s defence that let them down – two goals from set pieces and two from counter attacks sealed their fate.
Mariano Echeverría opened the scoring with a header from a free kick after 19 minutes, it seemed to wake Cerro up who began attacking with more purpose. The danger of over committing especially in a 3-4-1-2 is that you defenders can get isolated very easily on a counter-attack and that is just what happened following a corner. The loose ball broke to Federico Santander who atoned for his earlier misses by leading the break and timing his pass perfectly to Ruben Botta. There was still work for the young midfielder to do but he evaded his marker with an excellent piece of skill and smashed a left-foot shot past Barreto.
Cerro Porteño came out for the second half knowing they must score, and an intense few minutes ensued until the stadium was plunged into darkness. For the second day running the floodlights had failed – having also gone during Cerro’s training session. The game got underway again following a twenty minute delay and the game hadn’t lost its verve – just a couple of minutes after the restart Tigre had one foot in the semi-finals. Another breakaway and this time Botta returned the favour for Santander with a sublime cross from the left and the ex-Guaraní striker headed in at the back post.
At 3-0 the game was far from over, evidence of how many chances Cerro were creating. They soon pulled the two back they needed to qualify. After 62 minutes Santiago Salcedo scored his third goal in the competition with a towering header to connect with Fabbro’s centre. Fabbro got on the scoresheet himself, bursting through a few challenges before going down rather easily on the edge of the box. The referee gave the free kick and as he always does, Jony delivered, a beautiful free kick into the far corner. El Ciclón had battled back in this most epic of contests, a true end-to-end game in a case of ‘I’ll score more than you’ rather than trying to defend a lead. But the jubilation only lasted a matter of minutes for the visitors, another free kick to the back post and while the first attempt hit the crossbar the rebound fortuitously struck Alejandro Donatti’s thigh and Tigre were back in front. The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Cerro, despite their excellent record for goals in the final 15 minutes (More than 1 every 2 games on average) they couldn’t recover and it was another night of despair in a continental tournament.
This Cerro Porteño fan is sure that when that first Copa Libertadores or Sudamericana win does come it will be all the more sweeter for these bitter nights we’ve tasted.
By Ralph Hannah