Former champs flex muscles

Penarol, Velez Sarsfield and Santos, three of the four former winners still in the Copa Libertadores 2011, are within touching distance of the semi-finals after winning their quarter-final, first legs this week. has the details on how they did it, as well as news of the stalemate between Jaguares and Cerro Porteno.

Game of the week
Penarol 2-0 Universidad Catolica
Goals: Juan Manuel Olivera 34, Alejandro Martinuccio 90

El Carbonero’s style of play might not be to everyone’s liking but the Uruguayan side cannot be faulted for their commitment, focus and opportunism, a quality very much in evidence in their two goals. Taking full toll of errors by Catolica keeper Paulo Garces, Juan Manuel Olivera and Alejandro Martinuccio struck either side of the interval to give Penarol a significant advantage ahead of the return leg. Despite losing their unbeaten away record in this year’s Libertadores, the Chileans can take heart from one telling statistic: on their last three quarter-final appearances, the men from Montevideo have won the first leg only to then be knocked out.

Santos gave themselves an excellent chance of reaching the semi-finals for the first time since 2007 by beating Once Caldas 1-0 in Colombia, Alan Patrick scoring the game’s only goal just before half-time. In stretching their unbeaten run in the tournament to six games, O Peixe extended Once’s winless stretch at home to five, all this after the Colombians had gone unbeaten in their first 21 Libertadores matches at their Manizales stronghold.

Even though they were in action at the Bombonera rather than their Jose Amalfitani fortress, Velez Sarsfield still made home advantage count against Libertad of Paraguay, taking command of the tie with a 3-0 win. Juan Manuel Martinez was their star man with two goals, the first of them from the penalty spot, with Maxi Moralez scoring the other. El Fortín now look poised to reach their first Libertadores semi-fnial since 1994, when they went on to lift the trophy. In sliding to a seemingly decisive defeat, El Gumarelo look set to miss out on the last four for the third time running, having fallen short last year and in 2007.

The final tie of the week pitted together Jaguares and Cerro Porteno, the only two sides to have battled through from the preliminary phase. The Paraguayan outfit grabbed a valuable away goal through Jonathan Fabbro, which looked as if it would be enough to give them a first away win in the quarters in six attempts. Antonio Pedroza had other ideas, however, heading home with time almost up to protect the Mexicans’ unbeaten home record and revive their hopes of advancing to the semis at the very first attempt.

Player of the week
Juan Manuel Martinez (Velez Sarsfield)
A former Velez youth product now back at the club after spells in Colombia and Saudi Arabia, Martinez more than made up for the absence of the injured Santiago Silva. Nicknamed El Burrito (The Little Donkey), the 25-year-old took his tournament tally to three goals with a vital brace as El Fortín established firm control of their tie with Libertad.

The stat
- The number of wins Penarol have now recorded in the Copa Libertadores, a tournament record. The Uruguayans are two victories clear of River Plate and four ahead of their Montevideo rivals Nacional. Of the other clubs still in the competition, only Cerro Porteno, with 94, are close to reaching the 100-win mark.

What they said
“We had our chances but our finishing wasn’t up to standard, and we paid dearly for the mistakes we made at the back. Obviously it’s a big deficit for us to turn around in the second leg, but we need to pick ourselves up. We still have a chance and we’re going to try and take it,” Gregorio Perez, Libertad coach.

Penarol (URU) 2–0 Universidad Catolica (CHI)
Once Caldas (COL) 0–1 Santos (BRA)

Velez Sarsfield (ARG) 3–0 Libertad (PAR)
Jaguares (MEX) 1–1  Cerro Porteno (PAR)