Friday, 12 August 2011

Advantage Independiente in Recopa; Rio Clubs Start Well in Copa Sul-Americana

A slightly different midweek round-up for you this time, reader. With the Brasileirão finally taking a breather from its relentless HERE'S TWENTY GAMES EVERY SEVEN DAYS, DEAL WITH IT rhetoric, some rather more unobtrusive competitions crawled into the spotlight. Firstly, there was the start of the Copa Sul-Americana (the South American equivalent of the Europa League, for all you Europhiles), which pitted a group of not-quite-the-best-but-certainly-not-the-worst-thank-you Brazilian clubs against one another. The first leg of the Recopa Sul-Americana (which involves last year's Libertadores winners facing their Sul-Americana equivalents) between Independiente and Internacional also took place. In Colombia, meanwhile, the Brazil U20 side continued their World Cup campaign. Oh, and for all you stick-in-the-muds, there was a single Série A game to tide us over until the weekend. Deep breath now...

Independiente 2-1 Internacional
Much water has passed under the bridge since Internacional won the Libertadores last year. Twelve months, one Club World Cup disaster and two coaches later, the Colorado travelled to Argentina, hoping to add the Recopa to their trophy cabinet. The hosts, who defeated Brazilian side Goiás to claim the continent's secondary prize in 2010, started strongly; Inter 'keeper Muriel was peppered with shots early on. On a rare foray forward, however, the Porto Alegre side snatched the lead; a cross from Nei was deflected into the path of Leandro Damião, who turned expertly home.

Inter orbit; Andrés D'Alessandro probes for an opening against Independiente.

Independiente quickly reestablished their dominance, equalising through Maxi Velázquez and laying siege to the Inter goal after the break. When Marco Pérez finally bagged the winner with a deflected free-kick, the Avellaneda sighed with relief; a draw would have flattered the visitors enormously. Caretaker boss Osmar Loss (or Dorival Júnior, the man likely to be taking over) will hope for better at the Beira-Rio.

Copa Sul-Americana Round-up
With his Flamengo side setting the pace in the Campeonato Brasileiro, Vanderlei Luxemburgo would be forgiven for taking continental competition with a pinch of salt this year. The 59-year-old duly rested some of his key players for Wednesday's clash with Atlético-PR; Thiago Neves and Renato Abreu were rested, whilst Diego Maurício earnt a rare start in attack. A tight match was eventually settled by Ronaldinho, who came off the bench to convert a late penalty. The Furacão must win the second leg to stand a chance of progressing. Botafogo also have one foot in the next round; goals from Herrera and Maicosuel helped them to a 2-1 win over Atlético Mineiro.

Higher power; Diego Souza (second left) celebrates his goal against Palmeiras.

In Fortaleza, an injury time strike from Marcelo Nicácio handed Ceará a narrow victory over São Paulo. The Tricolor, who had led the match thanks to Rivaldo's close range effort, have work to do at the Morumbi. Vasco, meanwhile, completed a good set of results for the Rio de Janeiro clubs, brushing aside Palmeiras at the São Januário. The Gigante da Colina went ahead in fortuitous fashion - Bernardo's corner kick ricocheted in off Diego Souza, who knew little about it - before a second half strike from Élton sealed the win. Vasco and Palmeiras will soon be sick of the sight of one another; they meet in Série A at the weekend, before squaring off again in the second leg.

U20 World Cup Round-up
Brazil sealed their place in the quarter finals of the U20 World Cup, beating Saudi Arabia with some ease on Wednesday night. After an evenly-matched first half, the seleção went ahead through Henrique, who ran onto Willian José's delightful flick and finished with aplomb. Palmeiras leftback Gabriel Silva - whose presence in the side owes much to the injury sustained by Alex Sandro earlier in the tournament - then made it two, sweeping home following another Willian assist. The icing on the cake came in the dying minutes; Oscar showed great vision to find substitute Dudu, whose finish crept under Abdullah Alsdairy in the Saudi Arabia goal. Ney Franco's men will play Spain in the last eight.

Brasileirão Round-up
Santos finally played one of their million games in hand, hosting rivals Corinthians at the Vila Belmiro. The result? A stale goalless draw, about which I shall say no more.

Results. Recopa Sul-Americana; Independiente 2-1 Internacional. Copa Sul-Americana; Atlético-MG 1-2 Botafogo, Flamengo 1-0 Atlético-PR, Ceará 2-1 São Paulo, Vasco 2-0 Palmeiras. U20 World Cup; Brazil 3-0 Saudi Arabia. Série A; Santos 0-0 Corinthians.

(Photo credits; (1) Alexandre Lops, (2) Cleber Mendes.)

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