Nov 7, 2007

America Stun Millos In Copa Sudamericana Semis

I promised must-see TV. Did you really think I'd lie? Okay, so the first half wasn't much to write home about. For about an hour, in fact, Club America looked to be in almost complete control of the game. They had a comfortable 2-0 lead and only passive resistance from their Colombian hosts. The partisan crowd, who had been boisterous until America scored the first goal in the 25th minute, had fallen pretty silent. Millonarios looked a lot more like the (barely) middle-of-the-table club they are in their domestic league than the guys who had ousted Sao Paulo and Colo Colo from the tournament. Their defending was particularly horrific. America could (and probably should) have scored another.

Things changed in minute 61. Gerardo Bedoya struck a brilliant freekick from just outside the 18 yard box that left America's keeper Guillermo Ochoa flatfooted. Then the Colombians hit the post. At minute 68, Jonathan Estrada (I think it was him) took advantage of a mixup between Ochoa and two defenders to notch the equalizer. Millos now appeared clearly in control, the momentum in their favor.

By about minute 80, I thought America were out of gas. Millonarios smelled blood and pushed for the winner. Unfortunately, they forgot to defend again. Salvador Cabanas went fully unmarked and was wide open for a free header. No problemo! 3-2 America thanks to the second goal by the Paraguayan. A few minutes later, Millos' keeper appeared to commit a foul in his penalty area but the referee didn't call anything. America seemed a lot closer to a fourth goal than the Bogota side did to the equalizer. Yet it took a brilliant save from Guillermo Ochoa a few minutes from time to salvage the victory for the Mexicans.

All told the Aguillas victory is well-deserved, in my opinion. They were clearly the better team on the night and showed impressive poise by not caving in when Millonarios came back to tie the game. I don't think they should have much of a problem protecting the lead when the series heads to Mexico City in a few weeks' time. Then again, who knows? Millonarios have showed an uncanny ability to surprise opponents, often when they least expect it. But on balance, the Colombian side is simply too inconsistent, especially on defense, and America is methinks simply too good.

Now, bring on that other semi final! Arsenal versus River Plate. Tomorrow night, same bat time, same bat channel. Be there.

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