There were mixed fortunes for the Brazilian clubs in this week's Libertadores quarter-final second legs; São Paulo and Internacional progressed to the semi-finals, while Cruzeiro and Flamengo lost out.
São Paulo 2-0 Cruzeiro
The Tricolor exacted revenged on Cruzeiro almost a year to the day after the Belo Horizonte side knocked them out of the 2009 competition. Going into the game at the Morumbi with a two goal advantage from the first leg, São Paulo were firm favourites to advance. Cruzeiro's slim hopes were all but dashed in the opening minutes, when their talismanic striker Kléber was sent off after catching Richarlyson with a stray hand. Reminiscent of Thiago Motta's sending off in the Champions League semi-final, the decision was a harsh one. After the game, a visibly frustrated Kléber criticised Richarlyson for play-acting, quipping that "Ricky's like that...it always hurts him more [than it does others]."
The home side took the lead mid-way through the first half, after good work by Júnior César. The wingback beat two men on the left touchline and crossed for the onrushing Hernanes, who blasted into the top corner. The São Paulo No.10 proceeded to celebrate in what has become typical fashion, standing and shouting like a madman. The victory was secured in the second half, when Dagoberto gathered a Fernandão knock-down and cooly lobbed Raposa 'keeper Fábio. The quality of São Paulo's football has improved markedly since the arrival of Fernandão, and they look a good bet to go all the way in this competition.
Estudiantes 2-1 Internacional
São Paulo will meet Inter in the semi-final, after the Porto Alegre side battled to an impressive aggregate win over reigning champions Estudiantes. Despite losing an intense game in La Plata, the Colorado progress on away goals, having won the first leg 1-0. Estudiantes started brightly, and took the lead through Léandro González. A visionary ball from Juan Sebastián Véron found the striker in space, with ample time to beat a stranded Pato Abbondanzieri. The Inter 'keeper got his positioning all wrong, and looked generally shaky all match.
Within minutes, it was two. Enzo Pérez received the ball from a throw-in, and was allowed all the time in the world to curl a sumptuous effort into the top corner from 20 yards. The second half saw Inter huffing and puffing, but creating nothing; Estudiantes looked set to hold firm. This, however was to be Inter's night. In the 89th minute, Andrezinho found substitute Giuliano, who placed his finish low into the corner. The Colorado players celebrated like they'd won the competition, but regained concentration to see out the last moments of the game.
What had been a great spectacle was marred somewhat by events after the final whistle. Numerous scuffles broke out over the pitch and in the tunnel, and the away side's reserve keeper Lauro was caught on camera landing a forearm blow on an unexpecting Estudiantes player. When the emotions cool, however, Inter will reflect on a historic win, and start planning for their all-Brazilian semi-final date.
Universidad 1-2 Flamengo
Victory in Santiago was not enough for Flamengo, who were knocked out on away goals having lost the home leg 3-2. The Rubro-Negro went down fighting, however, and took the lead late in the first half, when Vágner Love headed home after a spectacular overhead kick from Adriano. The home side settled their nerves in the second period with a wonder goal from Montillo. The Argentine dribbled past Juan, advanced into the Fla half, and crafted an impudent chip which gave Bruno no chance. To Flamengo's credit, they set up a tense finale by bagging an intricate second with 15 minutes to go. A Petkovic flick was backheeled by Adriano into the path of Léo Moura, who returned the favour, giving Adriano a simple finish. It turned out to be too little, too late, however, leaving the Brazilian side to lament what could have been. Universidad will meet Mexican side Chivas in the second semi-final.
(Photo credits; (1) Tom Dib, (2) AFP.)