Boca Juniors versus Cruzeiro, the lead up to the Copa Libertadores second leg quarter-final was anything but peaceful. The controversy began once the first leg concluded. The main talking point was whether or not Cruzeiro CB Anderson Vital da Silva or better known as Dede was deserving of his red card. In an intense dispute for the ball during a corner kick, without intentions, Dede headered Boca GK Esteban Andrada, who suffered a fractured mandible which required surgery.
After the 1st leg, Cruzeiro’s board was photographed at the Conmebol headquarters the following morning. They had every intention of disputing Dede’s red card in hopes of it being overturned. Conmebol announced a few days later that Dede’s red card has been overturned making him available for the 2nd leg in Belo Horizonte. As reporters who cover the day to day of Boca Juniors flew in to Brazil they began to comment on the hostility received by Cruzeiro fans. The night before the match, various Cruzeiro fans ignited fireworks outside of the team hotel. The buildup to the match was anything but peaceful.
The First Half
Guillermo Schelotto proposed a traditional 4-3-3 lineup. With Rossi in goal, Buffarini, Izquierdoz, Magallan, and last-minute decision Olaza completing the back four. The midfield consisted of Nandez, Barrios, and Perez. Two defensive midfielders along with Perez for the build-up play. The three forwards were Pavon, Zarate as the main striker and up and coming Colombian international, Villa. Schelotto reverted back to his favourite system which has always paid off well. He was looking to replicate the successful forward line of a few years ago consisting of Centurion (currently at Racing) Benedetto (not 100% fit) and Pavon.
With the first half underway, a couple of top performances began to take shape. Cruzeiro was looking to attack Boca’s weakest and most inconstant positions, RB, and LB. Buffarini proved to be a wall throughout the first half, nullifying any attacks through the right flank. With the help of Villa (playing RW) dropping back, and Nandez, who ran rampant all over the pitch. Cruzeiro was having a tough time breaking down the back line. Frustration began to kick in for the Brazilian club as they began to take shots from outside the penalty box.
Boca’s positioning when defending couldn’t have been better. The players didn’t leave any spaces for Cruzeiro to take advantage of. Additionally, with two quick wingers such as Pavon and Villa, counter-attacking was proving to be quite effective for the Argentine giants. Villa continued to build on his great performance against Colon with exceptional plays against Cruzeiro. He was quick, attentive, and precise with his runs. He caused many problems for Cruzeiro’s back line, especially for Egidio, who wasn’t able to join Cruzeiro’s attacks. As with any Argentina-Brazil dual, controversy was always on the forefront. Dede was fortunate to not have been booked after he lifted his leg fairly dangerously off the ground. He nearly hit Rossi in the face with his boots.
The Second Half
The second half was a long 45 minutes which forced almost every Boca supporter to book an appointment with their cardiologist. The referee booked Dede after a careless foul on Rossi. Once again, he was the main talking point. As the game progressed, Boca was beginning to show signs of losing the intensity they showed in the 1st half. This allowed Cruzeiro to find more pathways to goal. Agustin Rossi was showing signs of nervousness as he mistimed many corner-kicks and nearly conceded. Boca was in dire need of substitutions, Precisely for Pablo Perez. He was committing fouls far too often after already having a yellow card to his name. Villa and Pavon weren’t pressing as intense as in the first half. Zarate was also beginning to phase out. Abila, Gago, and a change in defence would have been ideal.
Cruzeiro began to push exposing Boca more as the game progressed until the 58th-minute where they found the opener via a corner-kick. Sassa had just entered the game seconds earlier and the first ball he touched hit the back of the net. Fifteen minutes later, Boca made their first substitution with Fernando Gago replacing Pablo Perez. Gago provided the team with precise passing for a counter attack. Ramon Abila would soon after replace Mauro Zarate and with minutes left Edwin Cardona replaced Sebastian Villa. Two of the three components that would fabricate Boca’s goal had entered the pitch.
Unsurprisingly at this point, Dede received his second booking and was sent off becoming the first player in Copa Libertadores history to be sent off twice in back-to-back knockout matches. Now into stoppage time, Gago sent a long pass vertically down the middle of the pitch to Abila who times it perfectly and provides Pavon with a chest pass. Pavon is left one on one with the GK as he rounds Cruzeiro’s last defender and slots it home.
Boca Through To The Semi-Finals
Schelotto brilliantly read the second leg against Cruzeiro. He knew they would play very intense in a desperate search for a goal. He took advantage of the spaces Cruzeiro’s backline would leave at the expense of levelling the aggregate scoreline. In the semi-finals, Boca will face an even tougher opponent, Palmeiras. An already familiar foe, having faced each other in the group stages. Boca achieved a 1-1 result at Palmeiras, and fell at home in Buenos Aires 0-2. Schelotto will have the task of once again diagramming a very difficult tie against one of, if not, Brazil’s toughest opponent.