Five things we learned from the Libertadores quarter-final first leg ties

The quarter-final first leg ties came to an end this week. Here are five things we can take from them.

1) Gre-Nal only in the Copa do Brasil (probably)

 

With one side of the Copa Libertadores knock-out table consisting entirely of Brazilian clubs, one side from South America’s biggest country is guaranteed a spot in the final, in Santiago, on 23 November. And there was the potential for one huge semi-final clash, the local derby between Porto Alegre outfits, Grêmio and Internacional. The Gre-Nal is one of the fiercest derbies on the Brazilian calendar, and that clash in the high stakes setting of a continental semi-final tie was a mouth-watering prospect. However, both sides are now on the back foot following the first legs of their quarter-final clashes, with Grêmio losing at home to Palmeiras and Inter going down 2-0 at the Maracanã against Rio club Flamengo. While you can never say never in the Libertadores, the two sides may have to settle for a meeting in the final of the Copa do Brasil.

 

2) Scolari remains on track for repeat of 1999

 

Palmeiras’ form has been sketchy since the return to domestic action following the Copa América. The defending champions and former league leaders have slipped down to third in the standings and were under pressure ahead of their clash with Grêmio in Porto Alegre. But Scolari’s men put in a hugely impressive and disciplined defensive performance, barely giving their opponents time to dwell on the ball, particularly in the final third. The cherry on the cake was the cracker of a goal from Gustavo Scarpa which puts the Verdão firmly in charge of this tie. A repeat of their 1999 success remains very much on the cards.

 

3) Boca Juniors are a force to be reckoned with

 

While Gre-Nal was a possibility on one side of the draw, the chances of a Boca-River semi-final is also an enticing prospect for every fan of South American football. This would of course offer a repeat of last year-s final, when River took both the title and the bragging rights, not to mention see one of the biggest derbies in world football settle a spot in this year’s one-off final in Chile. Boca meanwhile had been handed a potential banana skin of a tie away to LDU Quito – would they make it back from the Ecuadorian metropolis unscathed? They came through the test with aplomb. Liga never got going despite home advantage and the tone was set after only 11 minutes when Ramón Álbila put Boca ahead, the Argentine side eventually running out 3-0 winners. The second leg at La Bombonera would appear a mere formality for the Argentines.

 

4) Bruno Henrique can be Flamengo’s main man

 

Much of the talk prior to the match between Flamengo and Internacional at the Maracanã revolved around Gabigol? Would he start or would Flamengo miss out on his predatory instinct in the final third? As it turned out he did start, but it was another Flamengo forward who grabbed the headlines: Bruno Henrique.In the same week he was called up to the Brazil squad the forward bagged both goals in a 2-0 win for the carioca club under the watchful gaze of Tite.For Jorge Jesus, meanwhile, it will be a relief to know that his attack has more than one string to its bow.

 

5) River will be a match for anyone

 

The score line read 2-0, but in truth it could have been much more. Defending Libertadores champions River Plate were ruthlessly efficient against Cerro Porteño, their only misstep their profligacy in front of goal which threatened to come back to haunt them. As it happened, a pair of penalties gave the Buenos Aires outfit a comfortable cushion ahead of the return encounter next week, and that Boca-River semi remains very much on the cards.

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