Velez in command, Gremio stunned

The knockout stages of the 2011 Copa Libertadores began this week, with Velez Sarsfield giving themselves a healthy advantage in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie against Liga de Quito, and Gremio suffering a shock home defeat to Chile’s Universidad Catolica. has the details on those two games and the week’s six other first-leg meetings.

Game of the week
Velez Sarsfield 3-0 Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito
Goals: Augusto Fernandez 7, 10,  Sebastian Dominguez 54

The Argentinians celebrated their 100th game in the tournament in fine style, recording a comfortable win that puts them within touching distance of a first appearance in the last eight since 2006. Ricardo Gareca’s side made a scintillating start and were rewarded for their patience with a third and potentially decisive goal. Though the visitors will point to second-half red cards for Luis Bolanos and Neicer Reasco, Velez were already well in control by that stage.

Surprise of the week
Gremio 1-2 Universidad Catolica
Goals: Douglas 58 (Gremio); Lucas Pratto 28, 73 (Universidad Catolica)

Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men showed they were in no way overawed by the occasion as they withstood Gremio’s early pressure and then took the lead, playmaker Marcelo Canete skilfully setting up Lucas Pratto for the first of his two goals. Douglas’s glorious long-range strike pulled the Brazilians level, only for Pratto to have the final word and secure a famous win for the Chileans, their third straight victory on the road.

One Brazilian side that did not come unstuck were Cruzeiro, who returned from Colombia with a valuable 2-1 lead over Once Caldas. A Raposa adopted an enterprising approach, though they had to wait until late on before going ahead through Wallyson, who joined Roberto Nanni as the joint-leading marksman in this year’s competition with seven goals. Jose Maria Ortigoza then doubled their lead before Luis Nunez scored an injury-time consolation goal for Caldas, who have yet to win at home in the competition this year.

Fluminense had no such problems in playing host to Libertad, ending the Paraguayans’ unbeaten record with a useful 3-1 win. Rafael Moura, Marquinho and Dario Conca were the men on target for O Fluzão, now unbeaten in four games at home, with Rodolfo Gamarra getting on the scoresheet for El Gumarelo.

Santos can be reasonably satisfied with their evening’s work at home to the ever-awkward America. As well as denying the Mexicans a goal at the Estadio Vila Belmiro, O Peixe also secured a narrow but precious one-goal lead thanks to Paulo Hernique Ganso’s low drive from outside the penalty box.

Estudiantes, champions in 2009, drew a blank at home to Cerro Porteno, coached by their former boss Leonardo Astrada. The Paraguayans were indebted to an outstanding display by goalkeeper Diego Barreto, who extended El Pincha’s winless run in all competitions to seven games, four of them without scoring at home, though the Argentinians did manage to stop El Ciclón scoring for the first time in eight Copa matches.

Meanwhile, Copa holders Internacional secured a promising 1-1 draw against Uruguay’s Penarol, the first team to win the competition. Trailing to Matias Corujo’s first-half strike, O Colorado hit back through Damiao and will fancy their chances of completing the job in Porto Alegre, where they have won their three games to date without conceding.

Junior de Barranquilla recorded the same scoreline against Jaguares in Mexico. Luis Paez put Los Tiburones in front, with Colombian forward Jackson Martinez levelling it up for Los Felinos. In ending the Mexicans’ run of three home wins in a row, Junior are on the verge of reaching the quarter-finals for only the second time in their history, the first coming in 1994.

Player of the week
Augusto Fernandez (Velez Sarsfield)
The 25-year-old Argentinian midfielder is in a rich vein of scoring form at the moment, and it was no surprise to see him collect a brace as Velez overcame Liga de Quito. A River Plate youth product, Fernandez joined El Fortín last year from Saint-Etienne and has now scored three times in this season’s Copa.

The stat
- The number of goals Penarol have scored in the Copa Libertadores, the same tally as their arch rivals Nacional, though Los Carboneros have taken 312 games to reach that total, 13 less than El Bolso. The two Uruguayan giants top the overall scoring charts, followed by River Plate (475 goals), Olimpia of Paraguay (366) and Boca Juniors (344).

What they said
“The best thing about today is that they didn’t concede an away goal. We used to be a lot more ruthless in front of goal. We’d have a couple of chances and put them away but these days we need to create more opportunities in order to score. It didn’t happen for Estudiantes today, but we’re still in there,” Estudiantes midfielder Enzo Perez gives his verdict on the stalemate with Cerro Porteno.