Weekly Round-Up: Goals & penalties reign supreme as Libertadores Round of 16 Wraps up

After 18 goals and 2 penalty shootouts, 16 has been cut to 8 in the CONMEBOL Libertadores. 4 Brazilians, 2 Argentines and one each from Ecuador and Paraguay remain in the quest for Gloria Eterna in the CONMEBOL Libertadores.

Action was hot right from the off on Tuesday, with defending champions River Plate and Brazilian giants Cruzeiro playing out a tense 0-0 draw in Belo Horizonte. River goalkeeper Franco Armani ended the night as the hero, making a massive save during the match and yet another in the penalty shootout. 

Though it was tight, the defending champions remain alive in the quest to repeat, and will have picked up confidence from this week’s performance.

Later on Tuesday, defending Brazilian champions Palmeiras hosted Godoy Cruz in São Paulo. A tight first half had Palmeiras in control of the tie, but Godoy Cruz just a goal away from flipping the tables. A penalty given to Palmeiras opened the floodgates, with Raphael Veiga slotting home from the spot to put Verdão in front on the night. Miguel Borja doubled the lead thereafter, with Gustavo Scarpa then making it 3-0 with a fantastic finish. 

Dudu added one more late on to put the cherry on top, capping of what was an impressive second half for Palmeiras, who will now head into the quarterfinals with some momentum and holding onto brilliant home form. 

Tuesday’s other action was in Asunción where Liga de Quito came into the night holding on to a 3-1 advantage on aggregate. The visitors extended their advantage early on, with Jhojan Julio pouncing on an error and scoring. William Mendieta tapped in to pull Olimpia level on the night, but missed a penalty in the second half that could’ve set up a dramatic conclusion. Adrián Gabbarini stood tall in goal for Liga de Quito to help secure the result.

Liga de Quito will now fly the flag for Ecuador in the quarterfinals, but play a style that is sure to ask questions of the sides they encounter further on in the competition. 

Action on Wednesday saw four more teams book a spot in the quarterfinals. Internacional made quick work of Uruguayan giants Nacional, with Rodrigo Moledo scoring in the first half and Paolo Guerrero sealing it in the second half. 

At the same time in Asunción, San Lorenzo jumped out to an early lead against Cerro Porteño behind Adam Barreiro’s penalty. With Cerro Porteño then needing two goals, the Paraguayans came out of the dressing room on fire for the second half. Joaquín Larrivey converted from the spot, and the Óscar Ruiz popped up a hero with a diving header to turn the tie around.

Cerro’s performance earns them a date with the defending Libertadores champions River Plate in the quarterfinals.

The drama wasn’t done after the early games, as a crowd of over 60,000 packed into the Maracanã to support Flamengo’s comeback bit against Emelec. Flamengo wasted no time in providing the drama. Rafinha earned a penalty on 10 minutes and Gabriel Barbosa calmly slotted it home to cut the aggregate deficit in half. 

Just 10 minutes later, Gabigol was at it again, finishing well to level the tie and send the Maracanã into a frenzy.

Flamengo had plenty of chances throughout the remaining 70 minutes, but Emelec did well to grow into the game themselves. With the tension rising, the final whistle blew sending the tie to penalties. Flamengo converted all four of their attempts from, with Diego Alves coming up big for one save, and Emelec’s Nicolas Queiroz then sending an effort off the bar to send Flamengo through. 

Flamengo’s comeback sets up the first of two all-Brazilian quarterfinals, against Internacional.

From one of footballing’s temples to another, it was Boca Juniors at La Bombonera who eliminated Brazilian side Athletico Paranaense. Athletico hung around for an hour, with an impressive series of goal line clearances highlighting the first half action.

Boca finally broke through in the second half with a nice strike from Ramón Ábila putting them on top. 

Eduardo Salvio, on his debut after joining this window, finished things off late on, sealing a 3-0 aggregate win and a spot in the quarterfinals against Liga de Quito. 

Action returned to Asunción on Thursday, and it was Grêmio who emphatically secured the final quarterfinal spot with a resounding 3-0 win over Libertad. 

The results set up a quartet of tasty ties, and guarantee that a Brazilian side with be in Santiago on November 23rd. Fans of River Plate and Boca Juniors will surely be eyeing a possible semifinal matchup as well, but Cerro Porteño and Liga de Quito are sure to have something to say about that. 

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