It proved to be a typically memorable three days of action in
the Copa Libertadores as America and San Lorenzo conjured up
miraculous comebacks against two of the tournament favourites.
Elsewhere, Boca Juniors, Fluminense and Sao Paulo underlined their
title credentials to reach the quarter-finals, where LDU, Atlas and
Santos will line up alongside them.
Game of the week
River Plate 2-2 San Lorenzo
Goals: Matias Abelairas 11, Sebastian Abreu 61 (River); Gonzalo Bergessio 72, 75 (San Lorenzo)
River Plate and San Lorenzo played out a simply unforgettable encounter at the Estadio Monumental. Leading 2-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate, and two men to the good following the dismissals of Claudio Rivero and Jonathan Bottinelli, Los Millonarios looked to have the tie in the bag. They did not count on the finishing skills of Bergessio, however, the former Benfica forward scoring a double in the final 20 minutes to send El Santo through to the last eight of the Libertadores for the first time since 1996. Curiously, San Lorenzo were eliminated that year by River, then coached by current Ciclón boss Ramon Diaz, with the Buenos Aires giants going on to collect their second Copa crown.
Surprise of the week
Flamengo 0-3 America
Goals: Salvador Cabanas 20, 77, Enrique Esqueda 40
A week is a long time in football, as Mexican hopefuls America will tell you. Just seven days ago Las Águilas were on the receiving end of a 4-2 defeat in the first leg, a result that ended Miguel Romano's reign as coach. But what better place to spark a revival than at the Maracana? In front of a disbelieving 50,000-plus crowd and led by the irrepressible Cabanas, the rejuvenated visitors gatecrashed Fla coach Joel Santana's farewell party to clinch an improbable quarter-final slot.
Defending champions Boca Juniors drew on their big-match experience to negotiate an awkward-looking away-day at Cruzeiro. Protecting a narrow 2-1 lead from the first leg, Los Xeneizes weathered the early Brazilian storm, struck at just the right time through Rodrigo Palacio and Martin Palermo, and closed the game out thanks to the peerless ball-retention skills of Juan Roman Riquelme. The message of this latest Boca masterclass was clear: the holders have no intention of relinquishing their grip on the title.
Three teams who might have something to say about that are the trio of Brazilian outfits who did manage to progress this week. Fluminense chalked up their second win over Atletico Nacional in a week courtesy of Roger's header. Awaiting them in the next round are fellow countrymen Sao Paulo, who prevailed in the battle of the three-time champions against Nacional of Uruguay. Adriano set O Tricolor Paulista on the way, with Dagoberto grabbing the second to confirm their place in the continent's top eight for the fourth time in five seasons.
Completing the triple act were Santos, who recorded another 2-0 win over Cucuta Deportivo in Colombia. Kleber Pereira and Lima were the men on target for O Peixe.
Despite beating Lanus 1-0 on their home patch in the first leg, Atlas were made to sweat before finally disposing of the Argentinians. Twice the Mexicans went ahead through Bruno Marioni and Ulises Mendivil, only for El Granate to hit back both times with goals from Jose Sand and Lautaro Acosta. Although the new boys fell one goal short in their bid to advance, they could at least content themselves with a much-improved performance. Los Zorros' reward for eliminating them is a dubious one - lying in wait in the next round are the mighty Boca.
The final members of the last eight are LDU. The Ecuadorians won their first leg 2-0 and held off Estudiantes' expected surge to go through 3-2 on aggregate. Luis Bolanos scored LDU's all-important goal midway through the first half, and although the innate competitive instincts of Sebastian Veron inspired Los Pincharratas to victory on the night, it was insufficient to take them through.
Player of the week
Gonzalo Bergessio. The 23 year old arrived at San Lorenzo at the start of the year and ensured his place in Ciclón folklore with two goals in three minutes to send River Plate packing. Ironically, current Millonarios coach Diego Simeone had trailed Bergessio's signature during his stint in charge at Estudiantes.
16. The number of goals America's Paraguayan goal-getter Salvador Cabanas has amassed in the competition in the last two seasons. Top scorer in 2007 with ten, Cabanas already has six to his name this term.
What they said
"It's difficult to explain a defeat like that, but that's the Libertadores for you. Every game is dangerous and we lost a match we shouldn't have. I think it was more a question of us throwing it away than America winning," Flamengo coach Joel Santana on his side's surprise elimination by America on his final game in charge of the Rio giants.
Copa Libertadores last 16, second leg results
Tuesday 6 May
Fluminense (BRA) 1-0 Atletico Nacional (COL)
Atlas (MEX) 2-2 Lanus (ARG)
Estudiantes (ARG) 2-1 LDU (ECU)
Wednesday 7 May
Sao Paulo (BRA) 2-0 Nacional (URU)
Cruzeiro (BRA) 1-2 Boca Juniors (ARG)
Flamengo (BRA) 0-3 America (MEX)
Thursday 8 May
River Plate (ARG) 2-2 San Lorenzo (ARG)
Cucuta Deportivo (COL) 0-2 Santos (BRA)