Libertad cut loose, Junior stay perfect

The group phase of this year’s Copa Libertadores de America is gathering momentum, with the competition shaping up to be a typically tight and hard-fought affair. Just one team have won their first three encounters, while a solitary side remain without a point. brings you the best of the fifth week of group matches, during which four teams - Libertad, Caracas, Jaguares and Godoy Cruz - all seized top spot in their sections.

Game of the week
Libertad (PAR) 5-1 Universidad San Martin (PER)
Goals: Rodrigo Rojas 14, Angel Orue 18, Manuel Maciel 28, Victor Ayala 50, Omar Pouso 84 (Libertad); German Alemanno 4 (Universidad San Martin)

Universidad travelled to Asuncion with high hopes, having won their opening two games and scored a total of five goals without reply. They even took the lead early on via German Alemanno, only for Rodrigo Rojas’ equaliser ten minutes later to trigger an avalanche of Libertad goals. The emphatic win for the home side took them a point clear of their beaten opponents at the top of Group 1, a tidy night’s work for the Paraguayan outfit in their first group game in their Estadio Nicolas Leoz.

Surprise of the week
Godoy Cruz shocked seven-time Libertadores champions Independiente 3-1 away in an all-Argentinian showdown in Group 8, a win that moved the visitors into first place on six points – ahead of Penarol on goal difference. The Uruguayan heavyweights, for their part, claimed a second successive victory when edging out 2008 champs Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito 1-0, the goal coming via a Luis Aguiar header from a corner. LDU de Quito and Independiente are third and fourth respectively, on three points apiece.

Colombia’s Junior de Barranquilla extended their 100 per cent start to the Libertadores 2011 by recording a comfortable 2-1 away success over Oriente Petrolero. Coach Hector Quintabani’s charges are flying high at the top of Group 2 on nine points, in stark contrast to the struggling Bolivian outfit, who remain rooted to the foot of the table without a point thus far. Oriente did at least notch their first goal of the group phase, thanks to Juan Carlos Arce’s 92nd-minute consolation strike.

Over in Group 4, Venezuela’s Caracas FC won their second consecutive game against Chilean opponents by beating Universidad Catolica 3-1 in Santiago, with three quick-fire goals after the restart silencing the home fans. La Católica thus remain on four points, two shy of leaders Caracas, and have been joined on that tally by countrymen Union Espanola, who sank Velez Sarsfield 2-1 in Santiago. With just three points from three games, Velez now find themselves bottom of the keenly contested section.

Held 1-1 at home by Venezuela’s Deportivo Tachira, Group 5 leaders Cerro Porteno missed an opportunity to build a commanding lead in the group. On five points after three rounds, the Paraguayan side are only two clear of Colo Colo and three clear of Santos, who play each other next week in their game in hand.

In the week’s only game in Group 6, Jaguares de Chiapas went 2-0 up at home against Emelec, only for the visitors to reduce the deficit and trigger a ferocious spell of late pressure. The Mexican outfit clung on, however, to claim a victory that takes them into first place, two points ahead of holders Internacional having played a game more.

Finally to Group 7, where 2009 winners Estudiantes La Plata required a second-half fightback to grind out a 2-1 away win over Guarani in Asuncion. El Pincha are now a point behind leaders Cruzeiro and two clear of third-placed Deportes Tolima, who drew 0-0 last week.

Player of the week
Luis Cabezas (Caracas)
In a devastating spell lasting less than four minutes, Caracas’ livewire Colombian attacker scored twice against Universidad Catolica and helped create his side’s third, this after opposing keeper Cristopher Toselli spilled his shot from distance at the feet of Nelson Barahona.

The stat
1 –
The number of teams to have won their first three group games in this year’s tournament. Adding further merit to their achievement, Group 2 pace-setters Junior have won two of those matches on their travels, against Peru’s Leon de Huanuco and Bolivia’s Oriente Petrolero.

What they said
“The way you win is always important, but this was a really hard-fought, heated affair, which has an impact on how the game pans out. It was tough but in the second half we were able to pick ourselves up, spend ten minutes getting ourselves organised and show another side to our play. We got a result that’s very important to our hopes of success in this Copa,” Estudiantes coach Eduardo Berizzo, speaking after his side’s comeback victory over Guarani.