Friday, 6 August 2010

Inter Scrape Past São Paulo to Reach Libertadores Final

Perhaps Brazil's most successful club in recent continental campaigns, Internacional yesterday booked their place in the final of the Copa Libertadores, South American football's premier competition. Despite losing the second-leg of their semi-final with São Paulo, Inter progressed on away goals to set up a meeting with Mexican side Chivas. The win also ensures the Colorado a place in the next Club World Cup, a tournament Chivas are ineligible for.

São Paulo 2-1 Internacional (2-2 on aggregate; Inter win on away goals)
In a pulsating game at the Morumbi, it was Inter who did just enough to guarantee their progress in the competition, thanks to Alecsandro's second half effort. São Paulo were almost unrecognisable from the first leg; their negative tactics were replaced by a more daring style, aided by a flexible trio of front men. Ricardo Oliveira maintained his place in the starting XI after his impressive (re)début at the weekend, and lined up alongside the established strike duo of Fernandão and Dagoberto. Inter, though, are rarely shrinking violets in attack; any worry that the Porto Alegre side would be set up to defend were dispelled with a line-up including both Tinga and Andrés D'Alessandro behind frontmen Taison and Alecsandro.

Playmakers of the world, unite!

The first period saw the sides trade blows; Rogério Ceni was called into action to thwart both Alecsandro and Tinga, while the Tricolor themselves threatened from dead balls and shots from distance. The opener, though, would come via a simple goalkeeping error. Hernanes' free-kick from the right was spilled by Inter stopper Renan (given the nod recently over the even more erratic Pato Abbondanzieri), allowing Alex Silva to head home from a tight angle. The goal was exactly what the game needed, and set up an intriguing second half.

Soon after the break, the Colorado equalised. Rogério Ceni could only watch in disbelief as D'Alessandro's free-kick was diverted into the bottom corner (purposefully?...maybe if we're being generous) by Alecsandro. Cue wild celebrations from the crazed puppy wily Argentine playmaker. The goal left São Paulo with a mountain to climb, but they were offered hope by the swiftness of their reply; just two minutes after conceding, their lead on the night was restored. Cléber Santana's volleyed attempt reached Ricardo Oliveira, who found himself onside thanks to a sleepy Colorado offside trap. The former Milan forward had ample time to control the ball and drill low past Renan.

Midfield wizard; Hernanes (centre) competes with Taison and Tinga.

The home side, buoyed by the introduction of Marlos, frantically sought a third, and tested Renan from distance on a number of occasions. Their cause was helped by the expulsion of Tinga, harshly given a second yellow for a foul on Júnior César. The winning goal, however, would evade the Tricolor. As the Inter players celebrated on the pitch, the home fans trudged out of the stadium, worried perhaps about what the near future might bring; Hernanes, their star player, looks set to seal a transfer to Europe this week, and it would surprise few if coach Ricardo Gomes' head rolled after this defeat.

Copa Sul-Americana Round-up
You would hardly know it from the coverage in today's papers, but last night also saw the first legs of two all-Brazilian Copa Sul-americana ties. Atlético Mineiro travelled to São Paulo state to face Grêmio Prudente, and claimed a creditable goalless draw at the Prudentão. Goiás hosted Grêmio at the Serra Dourada, and came from behind to snatch a draw. Hugo put the Tricolor ahead following some fancy build-up from Douglas and Adílson, but Rafael Moura's late penalty for the Esmeraldino leaves the tie evenly balance ahead of the second leg.

(Photo credits; (1) Eduardo Viana, (2) Daniel Marenco/Folhapress.)

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