6 Things We Learned from the First Leg of the 2014 Copa Libertadores Final
The final of the 2014 Copa Libertadores is on a knife’s edge following a 1-1 draw between Nacional and San Lorenzo in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Despite dominating large swaths of play, it took until the 65th minute for Mauro Matos to open the scoring for the guests. However, just as it looked as though the Argentinians were poised to take an aggregate lead in this two-legged affair, Julio Santa Cruz scored a late equaliser for Nacional.
There is no away-goals rule in this tie, which means both sides have it all to play for ahead of next week’s return fixture in Buenos Aires.
They will each have also learned a thing or two about their opponent at Estadio Defensores del Chaco, and the next few slides will highlight six of those lessons.
The Importance of the Ortigoza-Mercier Combination
Ironically, it was a Paraguay international who did so much to keep so many of his countrymen at bay on Wednesday.
Born in Argentina, Nestor Ortigoza earned Paraguayan citizenship through his father and made his debut for La Albirroja back in 2009.
Against Nacional in the first leg of the 2014 Copa Libertadores final, the 29-year-old helped repel numerous pieces of build-up play, while also orchestrating San Lorenzo’s possession game alongside teammate Juan Mercier.
Mercier, 34, actually played the entire match, while Ortigoza was withdrawn in the 85th minute.
They’ll Have to Get Through Piris in the Return Match
Nacional spent much of Wednesday’s encounter on the back foot, and their defensive clearances had a desperate look about them on numerous occasions.
However, Jose Caceres and Raul Piris mostly held firm in the centre of defense, with the latter particularly impressing.
In the early exchanges, Piris even drifted over to his left to help an out-of-position David Mendoza thwart Hector Villalba.
Benitez Was Embarrassingly Wasteful
By the latter stages of the first half, Nacional had enjoyed barely a third of the ball, although several of the game’s best chances had fallen their way.
Julian Benitez, more often than not, found himself with the ball at his feet at the crucial moment. However, a lack of finish from the 27-year-old meant that his side went into the break on level terms.
In the 16th minute, Benitez flashed the ball over the bar from in close, and he again failed to hit the target following a corner just 10 minutes later.
Captain's Performance from Romagnoli
Leandro Romagnoli is something of a San Lorenzo cult icon.
A two-time Argentinian champion during his first spell at the club, the playmaker spent four seasons at Sporting Lisbon before returning to El Ciclon in 2009.
On Wednesday against Nacional, the skipper looked nowhere near his 33 years, and his persistent dribbling and accurate passing eventually created the opening that led to the opener.
Magical Moments Change Games
San Lorenzo had been knocking at the door for some time when Mauro Matos finally broke it down.
Having grown in strength since the restart, it nevertheless took until the 65th minute for the Argentinian outfit to open the scoring in Asuncion—Matos side-footing a volley from Villalba’s cross and leaving goalkeeper Ignacio Don with no chance.
The lead was the least San Lorenzo deserved, but it took a moment of magic for them to get it.
Persistence Pays Off
How often is the cliche, “play until the final whistle,” trotted out?
On Wednesday, Nacional lived by the saying. As a result, they will travel to Buenos Aires with a 1-1 draw instead of a 1-0 defeat.
In the third minute of second-half stoppage time, Fredy Bareiro—who had been quiet through much of the match—nodded down a long, ambitious ball from just inside the halfway line that Julio Santa Cruz was able to turn into goal.
It was a tally that came from nothing as far as balance of play was concerned. In reality, it came from persistence and a willingness to fight until the bitter end.