Duo through as tension rises

Gremio of Brazil ended Junior de Barranquilla’s perfect record to join the Colombians in the last 16 of the 2011 Copa Libertadores, while Group 8 leaders Penarol went through even though they were not in action. There are ten places still available in the next round, with results elsewhere ensuring the race to claim them will go down to the wire.

FIFA.com rounds up an intensive three days of action in Latin America’s number one club competition.

Game of the week
Santos 3-2 Colo Colo
Goals: Elano 34, Danilo 35, Neymar 52 (Santos); Patricio Jerez 81, Diego Rubio 86

Having played out a five-goal extravaganza in Santiago last month, these two sides served up another one in a stormy encounter at the Vila Belmiro that also produced five red cards. With no option but to win, Santos surged into a three-goal lead thanks to first-half goals from Elano and Danilo, and a classy third from Neymar, who promptly collected a second yellow card for his exuberant celebration.

Ze Eduardo and Andre Scotti also saw red before the visitors ensured a tight finish with two late goals. There was still time for Elano and Cristobal Jorquera to receive their marching orders, though O Peixe held on to move to within a point of the second-placed Chileans. New coach Muricy Ramalho now faces the task of conjuring a result at new leaders Cerro Porteno next week without three of his key players, while Colo Colo face an altogether easier assignment at home to bottom club Deportivo Tachira.

The Paraguayans took to the top of the section on eight points after downing the Venezuelans 2-0 away, their goals coming from Roberto Nanni and Ivan Riveros. Cerro can clinch their passage to the knockout phase if they beat Santos in Asuncion next week.

Gremio spoiled Junior’s perfect record with a 2-0 victory of their own at the Estadio Olimpico, a result that takes them through with the Colombians from Group 2. Junior still lead the section, though the men from Porto Alegre can overhaul them if results go their way on the final matchday.

Brazilian champions Fluminense are continuing to struggle in Group 3. Thursday’s 2-0 defeat at Nacional left them bottom of the section on five points and needing to win at Argentinos Juniors in their final game to have any hope of advancing. America lead the group after overcoming Argentinos 2-1 at home. The Argentinians remain second, though the fast-improving Nacional are just behind them on goal difference.

Caracas maintained their surprise challenge in Group 4 with a 2-1 win at Union Espanola, their second victory of the campaign on Chilean soil. The Venezuelans now lead the group, helped in no small part by Universidad Catolica’s goalless draw at home to Velez Sarsfield. With the final two games to be played next week, only two points separate Caracas and the third-placed Argentinians.

Bolstered by their victory over leaders Pumas UNAM in the Mexican championship, Jaguares made the most of another Antonio Salazar goal as they ended Internacional’s unbeaten record in Group 6 and closed to within a point of the Brazilians. Victory in their final game away to the already eliminated Jorge Wilstermann, who drew 0-0 at home to Emelec on Thursday, will take the Mexicans through, while Inter could yet go out if they lose at home to the Ecuadorians.

In the opening game of the week, Independiente and Liga Deportiva Universitaria played out a 1-1 draw in Avellaneda. The stalemate left the seven-time Libertadores champions still at the bottom of Group 8 and all but out of the competition, while confirming Penarol’s place in the next round. Second-placed Liga will join them if they beat Godoy Cruz, who are just behind them on goal difference, in Quito next week.

Player of the week
Santiago Garcia (Nacional)
Nacional went goalless in collecting a single point in their first three games. Back-to-back wins have revived their challenge, however, with Santiago Garcia scoring both goals in the defeat of Fluminense to follow up his match-winning strike in the 1-0 defeat of Argentinos Juniors in mid-March. The in-form Garcia is also the top scorer in the Uruguayan league with 21 goals.

The stat
1 -
Internacional’s defeat to Jaguares was their first against Mexican opposition in the competition, the Brazilians having won their previous five encounters. Jaguares, meanwhile, will end the group phase with a 100 per cent home record.

What they said
“First up, I’d like to congratulate the players on the win. They got the job done, but they need to keep their heads because we can’t afford to make errors like that in a competition as big as this. The Libertadores is not a war,” Newly appointed Santos coach Muricy Ramalho gives his verdict on his charges’ 3-2 defeat of Colo Colo.