Atletico Mineiro and Olimpia both made tremendous runs to the Copa Libertadores finals, but Olimpia were the team to ultimately move within one match of a South American championship with a 2-0 win on Wednesday.
Unfortunately for Ronaldinho, his most noteworthy contribution in the early going involved unruly fans targeting the 33-year-old forward, per Sam Kelly of ESPN:
Despite a couple solid efforts from Ronaldinho, Atletico Mineiro found themselves at an early disadvantage courtesy of an Alejandro Silva scoring strike in the 22nd minute, per Kelly:
Mineiro didn’t let the goal slow their aggression, however. In the ensuing minutes, they manufactured a couple strong scoring opportunities neutralized by some impressive play from Olimpia keeper Martin Silva, including this 32nd-minute effort as described by Kelly:
The leading side weren’t without some attacking aggression of their own, though. In the 37th minute, Juan Manuel Salgueiro missed on an opportunity to extend his team’s lead to 2-0, doing the same in the 39th minute with a blown free-kick opportunity:
Olimpia took that 1-0 lead into the half, and as noted by Nick Dorrington, Mineiro’s defense looked extremely thin at times in the first 45.
Still Mineiro didn’t manage to capitalize on a couple strong efforts from Deigo Tardelli in the 21st and 41st minutes:
First-half stats for the match were somewhat misleading. Despite attempting three more shots than the opposition, Olimpia trailed in possession at 52-48 and put five of their seven first-half attempts wide of the mark.
|2||Shots on Target||1|
|5||Shots off Target||3|
Olimpia made a pair of changes at the half, but Mineiro brought out their starting XI to start the second stanza. If Galo were to get within striking distance of taking the lead, they would need that starting group to remain aggressive on the attack and tighten up in the defensive third against a stout Olimpia offense.
It wouldn’t get easier for Galo in the second frame. In the 65th minute, Mineiro pulled Ronaldinho in favor of Guilherme, as noted by Ralph Hannah:
The Brazilian star didn’t play his best match in the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final, and his team’s attack suffered as a result. But while Ronaldinho could have played better, Olimpia’s defense deserved a lot of credit for holding its counterpart scoreless. Mineiro simply didn’t seem organized enough on the attack to put pressure on the leading side.
Despite the two sides being separated by just one goal, the final 20 minutes appeared a mere formality. Olimpia’s attack continued turning the screws on Mineiro, missing a couple more opportunities to tack on another goal to put the game to bed, per Kelly:
Mineiro further put themselves in a hole in stoppage time when Richarlyson was sent off with a red card, but by that point, Galo didn’t have much of a chance of slotting an equalizer. The writing was already on the wall.
Olimpia used the final seconds of stoppage time to notch their second goal of the contest, however, as Wilson Pittoni utilized the one-man advantage to find the net on a free-kick to settle the match:
With the 2-0 win, Olimpia head to Belo Horizonte next week for the second leg of the final and a chance to secure the Copa Libertadores championship.
Mineiro, on the other hand, had to feel deflated after the crushing loss. Despite an impressive run to get to the finals, the losing side failed to show up in the critical showdown and are left to look ahead to what might have been.