Real Garcilaso Continue Their Magical Run In Copa Libertadores
By Juan Arango
Coming into this season's Copa Libertadores, the most famous person affiliated with Real Garcilaso was the Peruvian writer that the club was named after. Their campaign last year that saw them earn second place in the Peruvian Descentralizado saw some major pieces leave. The most important one was goalscorer Andy Pando, so goalscoring has been a major issue for Fredy García's men.
Yet it was their tactical order that helped them persevere and kept them in several matches domestically and in international play.
The 1-0 win at home in Cusco was key to giving them the comfort needed when they arrived to Montevideo as Nacional really looked and played wounded after their devastating loss to Peñarol at the weekend. Yet it took them until the second half to get started. The first half was one where Nacional dominated possession but their clarity in front of the final third was limited.
Vicente Sánchez was one of the players that was going to be key in the match and Garcilaso did a great job of isolating him and pinning him near the touchline whenever he got the ball. This limited Nacional's options and helped Garcilaso be better positioned and get to the ball before the listless Bolso were able to. On the opposite end, three left-footed attacking options were self-nullified by their static play and lack of projection down the left. This left Nacional with a very limited area to work in front of goal. Gonzalo Bueno was non-existent against a Garcilaso side that were well numbered in the defensive side but offensively did very little.
The second half saw Nacional pick up the pace and they would score off a flick on header by Darío Arismendi that eventually found Gonzalo Bueno for the only goal of the match. Nacional were beginning to feel momentum shift in their direction, but Arruabarrena ends up substituting Bueno for Sebastían Abreu while Alexander Medina came off in order to bring on Álvaro Recoba. In theory, that tweak should have been what put Nacional on top. Unfortunately, the precision was still not there and Real Garcilaso fended them away from goal with solid defense and brilliant play by goalkeeper Diego Carranza. The Argentine goalkeeper denied a tremendous freekick opportunity in the dying moments of the match from Recoba and the match went to penalties.
In the shootout, Nacional fizzled and lost all poise. The first miss by Recoba, where his shot landed in the Amsterdam bleacher, virtually killed the morale of the club and Garcilaso took full advantage knocking in all four of their shots. The final nail of the coffin was courtesy of Darío Arismendi when he knocked the ball into the stands. His tears of the silence at the Centenario would not weigh on Óscar Gamarra and Garcilaso would become the first Peruvian side since Sporting Cristal made their run to the final back in 1997 to reach the quaterfinal of the Copa Libertadores.
Now the Peruvians will head home and face Universidad de San Martín at the weekend with a chance to keep pace with Sporting Cristal despite having three matches in hand. They will also sit back and wait to see who emerges out of the tie between Colombian side Santa Fe and Brazilians Grêmio next week.
Meanwhile, Nacional saw their season disintegrate in a span of four days. Their 3-0 loss to Peñarol essentially took them out of league contention and all their guns were pointing at the continental front. Now questions will have to be answered and players will jump on the carousel on the way out of the Gran Parque Central.
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