Relieved Franco demands Velez improvement
© AFP

Velez Sarsfield were seemingly cruising towards a place in the Copa Sudamericana semi-finals. The reigning Argentinian Clausura champions came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw away to Sante Fe in Colombia, and a Guillermo Franco double had them 2-0 up at half-time in the return leg in Buenos Aires.

However, Jonathan Copete cut the deficit, before Omar Perez’s goal, which he celebrated in tears, made it 3-3 on aggregate and left Sante Fe on the verge of going through on away goals.

There was, nonetheless, one last twist – much to Velez’s relief. Ricardo Gareca’s men were awarded a penalty and, with 90 minutes on the clock, terrace idol Juan Manuel Martinez dispatched it to grab El Fortín a last-four date with either compatriots Arsenal or Universidad de Chile (La U won 2-1 in Sarandi in the first leg).

We simply cannot give the second half away in the manner in which we did. It would have been insulting to go to the dressing room eliminated.
Guillermo Franco

Yet despite snatching progression from the jaws of elimination, Franco, the 35-year-old Mexican forward, stressed that Velez must avoid another second-half collapse in the future.

“We need to discuss it,” said the former Villarreal and West Ham United man. “We simply cannot give the second half away in the manner in which we did. It would have been insulting to go to the dressing room eliminated.

“We were out, we were out. Thank God the penalty came. Luckily we won. We are now through and we can put things right. We do not understand what happened to us, but we can’t let it happen again.”