Sarsfield showed visitors Rocha FC little hospitality as they ran out 5-0 winners last night. The in-form Argentines now stand on the verge of recording the highest points tally in the group phase of the Copa Libertadores de America, which will give them the right to home advantage in the return legs of the knockout stages. Defeat for the Uruguayans also confirmed LDU of Quito's place among the continent's top 16 sides.
The other team to go through without getting their boots dirty were Goias of Brazil, thanks to a 1-1 draw between Chile's Union Espanola and Rosario-based outfit Newell's Old Boys. Stay tuned as FIFA.com reviews Tuesday's encounters and looks ahead to Wednesday evening's do-or-die clashes, with Chivas Guadalajara's visit to Caracas FC topping the bill. The Mexicans, who are already through to the next round, are the only side in with a chance of preventing Velez from registering the best record in the tournament's second phase.
Velez Sarsfield kept their perfect Libertadores record intact with an emphatic 5-0 victory at home to Rocha FC. The five-star performance sealed the Argentines' place at the top of Group 5 and also confirmed LDU's qualification for the next phase. It was a night to remember for youngster Sebastian Ereros as he grabbed a hat-trick, with Mauro Zarate and Marcelo Bustamante adding the Fortineros' other two goals.
"We played well, took our chances and we're close now to securing the best record of the second round. I'm delighted, but we just need to keep going that bit more to ensure home advantage for the knockout stages," remarked Velez coach Miguel Angel Russo. The runaway leaders, who face LDU in their final group fixture next week, boosted their goal average to +12, which should do their chances of claiming the best record of the 32 sides no harm.
Newell's stage late show
Union Espanola of Chile wasted an excellent opportunity to all but seal their place in the next round when they drew 1-1 with Newell's Old Boys in a vital Group 3 showdown in Santiago. Jose Luis Sierra put the home side in the driving seat only for Newell's striker Hector Steinert to equalise with four minutes remaining. Leaders Goias were not complaining, however, as the result saw them through to the round of 16. The Brazilian debutants stand top on 10 points, followed by Union Espanola on 7, The Strongest on 6 and fourth-placed Newell's on 5. In next week's decisive round of games, the Chileans travel to Brazil, and Newell's entertain The Strongest in Rosario.
Union coach Fernando Carvallo tried hard to see the bright side afterwards: "We couldn't kill them off and let some very important points go begging. Although we've missed a great opportunity, we're still in there." Somewhat surprisingly, his counterpart, Nery Pumpido, was even more optimistic: "We played better with ten men and deserved to win. I'm sure we'll go through."
Felines on the prowl
The last game of the night, over in Group 4, saw Tigres UANL rescue a priceless point in a 2-2 draw at Deportivo Cali. Chilean striker Sebastian Chamagol Gonzalez bagged both Tigres' goals, with Uruguay's Gustavo Morinigo and the Panamanian Blas Perez responding for the hosts. The Mexicans, who lie third on 7 points (+1 GD), now need to beat current leaders Universidad Catolica (10 points, +2 GD) at home next week to confirm second place in the group at the very least. Corinthians of Brazil, currently standing second on 10 points (+1 GD), host the Colombians in their final game and look odds-on to finish top.
Nerves set to jangle on WednesdayIt could be all over in Group 1 this Wednesday if leaders Chivas Guadalajara (10 points) earn a result away to Caracas FC (4 pts) and Sao Paulo (6pts) beat Cienciano (3 pts) in Cuzco. The Aztecas are the only side capable of completing the group phase with a better record than Velez Sarsfield. "Our aim is to finish first and we'll be going all out to win," said Chivas boss Jose Manuel de la Torre in determined mood. His opposing number, Noel San Visante, is not giving up just yet, though: "It's still in our hands, and if we're going to go down, we'll go down fighting."
After the disappointment of last Wednesday's historic home defeat to Chivas, their first Libertadores reverse at the Morumbí Stadium in 19 years, reigning Copa holders Sao Paulo had yet more misery heaped upon them when Santos snatched the Paulista league from under their noses on Sunday. "They're two different competitions, and now we're fighting for the Libertadores," commented striker Thiago.
The night's action comes to a close with two fixtures in Group 8, where leaders Libertad (8 pts) entertain Paulista (5 pts) and River Plate (6 pts) travel to Ecuador to face El Nacional (2 pts). Libertad manager Gerardo Martino is in confident mood: "We're nearly there. All we have to do is win and we're through."
River Plate go into their Quito test with a side packed full of reserves intent on ending a nine-game winless run away from home. "The team I've selected is perfectly capable of winning," said an unruffled Daniel Pasarella. As for opponents El Nacional, wide midfielder Cristian Lara is line for a recall after recovering from injury, although left-back Erik De Jesús has a knee problem and is definitely out.
Tuesday's resultsRocha FC (URU) 0 - 5 Velez Sarsfield (ARG)
Union Espanola (CHI) 1 - 1 Newell's Old Boys (ARG)
Deportivo Cali (COL) 2 - 2 Tigres (MEX)
Wednesday's fixturesCaracas (VEN) - Chivas (MEX)
Cienciano (PER) - Sao Paulo (BRA)
Libertad (PAR) - Paulista (BRA)
El Nacional (ECU) - River Plate (ARG)