Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Paraguay & Uruguay March 2011



The other part of my trip to South America included visits to Paraguay and Uruguay.

Libertad 5 Universidad San Martin 1.

I followed Shakira to Asuncion and actually stayed near her Sheraton Hotel.
(or did she follow me ?)
I, obviously, chose not to go to her concert and instead watched Libertad easily beat their visitors from Peru.

Libertad thus went to the top of their group and they looked like a decent outfit.

This was the first time Libertad had played a Copa match at their own updated smallish stadium.
And some 8,000 turned out on a steamy evening in Asuncion.

Those fans enjoyed themselves with plenty of streamers, fireworks and smoke.
Certainly their team didn’t let them down coming back from an early away goal to out-pass and decisively beat San Martin.

Rubio Nu 1 3 de Febrero 0.

The stadium La Arboleda housed about 250 fans for this 5pm Wednesday afternoon top level encounter in the Santisima Trinidad barrio of Asuncion.

The home side needed just one goal to beat their visitors and they spent most of the second half content to absorb the pressure.

Guarani 1 Estudiantes 2 in the Copa Libertadores.

This match was played in the large Defensores del Chaco (national) stadium in Asuncion.

Though it could have been played in a much smaller ground as only about 1200 fans were there on a late Wednesday evening.

There was a lively group from La Plata to cheer on their team.

Guarani needed the points as they are last in the group but they looked second best against an Estudiantes side minus Juan Veron.

The home side did go in front after a defender’s push resulted in a converted penalty.
But soon after the break the Argentinians scored two quick goals including an excellent strike from Gonzalez.

Estudiantes negotiated the remainder of the game and their goalie dodged the flying bottles aimed at him.

Cerro Porteno 1 Deportivo Tachira (Venezuela) 1.

The third Copa Libertadores fixture in Asuncion played at Cerro´s home in a well filled stadium.

On another steamy night I joined some radio commentators in watching this one.

The ground has a 32,000 capacity being mostly open with the main ultras at the left hand end.

Cerro are one of the two biggest clubs in Asuncion and they expect success.
But on this night despite taking the lead they were pegged back by the visitors from Venezuela who played well, especially in the second half.

Liverpool 0 Nacional 2.

I took the fast ferry and bus to Montevideo hoping for some milder weather after the heat of Asuncion and Buenos Aires.
What I got was torrential rain one day and high winds and cooler conditions on the second day.

This first game was played at the famous Centenario stadium.

As expected the Nacional fans came in their thousands with a much smaller number supporting the green and black of Liverpool.
After ten minutes the heavens opened and the Nacional hinchas cranked up the noise.

Their team had the edge scoring fairly early on and staying in control most of time.

The Centenario has that feeling of history being the stadium that staged the very first World Cup and its iconic structure - the tower - presents a memorable image as a backdrop to watching a match.

El Tanque Sisley 1 Central Espanol 0.

I´m not sure the significance of the Sisley tank however this top division game was more like a non league encounter judging by the surroundings of Carrasco Norte at 10.15am on a Sunday morning.

There was about equal numbers of home and away fans totally around 300.
Many sat on basic bench seats.

El T scored in the first half through their Cameroonian centre forward and then were content to mostly defend in the 2nd period.

I took a taxi to central Montevideo to relax before setting out for Cerro.

Cerro 0 Penarol 2.

A few kilometres to north of the centre the area of Cerro brought out the locals to watch the most successful team in Uruguay come into town.

This was a time to arrive early as the good seats in the platea were soon taken up about an hour before the 4.30pm start.

The fans Penarol came in large numbers and packing the opposite terrace. Whilst the home ultras were behind the right hand goal (the other end being unused)

After a fairly even first period when both sides hit the woodwork Penarol took the lead with a great left foot strike by Pacheco.
Soon after they added to the advantage and generally held out for the expected victory.

At the end the home fans sent a cascade of debris at the Penarol players and the away fans proceeded to break down some of the fences, by then I had made my exit via one of the taxis waiting outside.

(part 2) more pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/715016177

Argentina February/March 2011


This trip to South America included games in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.


Estudiantes La Plata 1 Deportivo Tolima 0.

The trip began with a Copa Libertadores game between the Argentinian Apertura champions and their visitors from Colombia.

The match was played in the revamped La Plata city stadium before a typically passionate 36,000 with only a hundred or so away fans.

The stadium has the addition of a partial roof, improved seating and some European style updating including a central scoreboard that those that operate it still had to get used to.

The changes did enhance the typically passionate atmosphere, the noise being so loud some of the children had to cover their ears.

Tolima showed some useful skills and Estudiantes had some dodgy moments in defence but eventually, prompted by Juan Veron, the home side got on top and sealed victory via a familiar left footed free kick from the right.

The fans were able to leave quickly and I got the bus back to Buenos Aires.

Atletico Rafaela 4 San Martin (San Juan) 1 in Nacional B (second level)

Following an interminable, ten hour, bus journey from Buenos Aires through flat countryside of fields and not much else I arrived at Rafaela.

The town has the feel of a slightly more affluent location with a pleasant centre, convenient hotels and a nearby stadium.

The home side are challenging at the top of the league and they won this convincingly.
Starting with a penalty and followed by two more goals in the first half.

San Martin did get a late consolation but they were well beaten.

The ground has a two tier end for the ultras plus some Boca-like boxes opposite.

I could stroll back to my hotel after the match and have a couple of Caipirinhas before midnight.

Colon Santa Fe 1 Gimnasia La Plata 3.

This time the bus trip, from Rafaela to Santa Fe, was only 2 hours or so.

Colon are doing some development on their ground, as its another being used for the Copa America. They’re adding a second tier to one end and boxes above the main stand area.

20,000 hinchas turned out (including a good number from La Plata) on a warm evening to watch the home team fairly well beaten by Gimnasia who had the outstanding player in the no.10, Juan Neira.
He scored twice including a clever free kick.

Colon did reply to the first strike straightaway but generally struggled to get their game going.
Gimnasia finished them off near the end.

Racing Cordoba 0 Deportivo Maipu 0.

Another longish, 5 hour, bus journey however this time it ran pretty much to time.

Racing are one of a number of clubs in Cordoba and they have a decent stadium although only 3,000 fans were there on this Saturday evening for an Argentino A, 3rd level, fixture with just a handful of non ultras from Mendoza.

No goals and not many goalmouth incidents.
But there were plenty of other incidents as two home players got sent off, the (local) stretcher bearers tussled with the away coach, the referee got plenty of abuse and Maipu, bottom of the league, wasted time mercilessly.

I left quickly as the mayhem mounted at the end of the game.

Independiente Rivadavia 1 Union Santa Fe 2.

A Nacional B encounter in front of 8,000 fans at this Mendoza based club.

The ground is not too far from the larger Estadio Malvinas in a large park to the east of the city.
It has an older style main stand, a largish end for the ultras and some development going on at the other end.

The local hinchas brought their fireworks and flares and that enhanced the atmosphere though in the end their team were well beaten by Union with Quiroga heading the winner.

Afterwards I had an idyllic walk back to my central hotel through the park, in very pleasant weather, and past the wine festival joining the locals taking their glasses around each stall.

In a way Mendoza was a little piece of heaven - not only the football but as a world renowned wine centre.

Instituto 0 Atletico Tucuman 1.

Back to Cordoba to see two teams challenging at the top of Nacional B.

This was the first match at which i´d seen a programme during this trip.
And for one teenager near me it was not for reading (or collecting) as he tore it up and threw it into the air as the players emerged.
Not something you often see in England.

There was a superb atmosphere created by the 15,000 locals but this was not reflected in their teams display as Atletico had the match winner (he got a 10 in the sports paper) - the no.8 Chavez.
Always lively and with non stop running up front he scored a Messi-like winner with a dribble and chip.

It was well deserved, and a shame they had no fans to witness it, since Atletico were always on top getting numerous corners and better, sharper possession.

The ground (visible from the air on the way in) is painted red & white and capable of holding 25,000.

Godoy Cruz 1 Penarol 3.

And a return to Mendoza for this Copa Libertadores 2nd phase game.

It was played in the spacious Estadio Malvinas - another Copa America venue.

I´d seen some fans from Uruguay earlier in the day in the centre of the city.
The had an armed escort accompanying their buses to the stadium.

Certainly the 700 visiting fans had plenty to shout about as Penarol scored in the first minute when Olivera was left unmarked to head in.
Despite Godoy Cruz getting back on terms this always looked fairly comfortable for Penarol after Olivera scored another header before half time.

The home side found it difficult to set up their chances except near the end.

We had a ten minute break for a partial floodlight failure but it didn’t stop the visitors from sealing the win.

As away wins tend to be fairly unusual in the Copa Lib. this looked a vital victory.
It was only the second Copa home game for Godoy Cruz..

This time it was a longer walk back to the centre, through more of the park, alongside the downcast locals.

Velez Sarsfield 3 Universidad Catolica 4.

A terrific Copa Libertadores encounter watched by 20,000 including about 800 from Chile, who provided good support for their team.

Again we had an early goal when the home goalie failed to stop a shot from Pratto. Velez fought back and by half time were 3.-1 up though that score was somewhat flattering.

The Chileans came out for the second and attacked scoring first from an inspirational shot from Costa.
Then Pratto would get his second with another excellent strike and in the final minutes Catolica broke away in another well worked move to finish off Velez.

Barracas Central 2 Comunicaciones 0.

The first of two Primera B (third level) games in different parts of Buenos Aires.

The area around the Barracas ground has a reputation but on this hot and sunny Friday afternoon it was calm enough.

Before a small crowd the home side were mostly in control led by their excellent centre forward who headed them into the lead. Comu (with no fans) looked limited.

Deportivo Moron 1 San Carlos 1. in the 9pm game.

It was a comfortabe enough double if not a comfortable train ride (crowded .- locals jumping through the windows to get a seat)

Moron have a good sized stadium with a large side and right hand end (for the ultras)
The other end had a few fans presumably from San Carlos.

The away side scored first , a header from a corner against the run of play. Moron got the equaliser after a good move, cross, and conversion by their striker.

Later in the second period it settled into a stalemate. I went back to central Buenos Aires via Once station.

Atlanta 1 Defensores de Cambeceres 2.

Atlanta, based near Chacarita station are top of Primera C (fourth level) and plenty of their fans watched this one in very hot conditions.

Though the home side began well and took the lead Defensores, in fifth place, equalised against the run of play in the first half.
Despite having a man sent off the away team went ahead and they were able to hold on well enough helped by Atlanta also having a men getting a red card.

The locals, 9000 of them, provided good support.

Racing 4 Olimpo 3.

I took the train back to Retiro, subte across to Constitution and then another train to Avellaneda in good time for the late kick off on this Saturday night.

35,000 fans in total and loads packed into the √ćmperial Guard´section behind the goal. The ultras produced a typically large flag and kept up the noise throughout.

They had a lot to cheer about in the first half as Racing cut thru the Olimpo defence three times adding a fourth early in the second period.
But Olimpo are challenging at the top of the league and they fought back with three quick efforts making it a nervy finish for home side. But they held on and you could hear them singing some way up the street.

Tiro Federal 0 Instituto 0.

The second goalless draw of the trip and a very low key affair in Rosario.
It was totally in contrast to watching Central or Newell’s as Tiro are a small team with a ground for which only one side was being used (there is redevelopment at one end and ´boxes´opposite)

The game had few moments of interest, both teams hit the woodwork but the rest was effort but little result.

Tigre 1 Banfield 2.

Back to Buenos Aires for the late Friday night game in Victoria, north of the centre.

Where the 17,000 fans included a lively group from Banfield who are doing well in the Clausura.

The visitors went ahead when Garcia was there to convert a cross and although Tigre fought back Banfield had the last word with a late goal following a route one goalie clearance.

Huracan 2 Quilmes 1.

This was a relegation battle in the Argentinian Clausura.

And you had to feel for Quilmes whose fans provided good support as they gifted Huracan two goals with defensive errors.
The visitors did score with ten minutes remaining, again helped by an error, but despite late pressure Huracan and their fans could celebrate their first win of the season.

This was my second visit to Huracan´s stadium and at least this time the match was played in dry, pleasantly cool weather (last time it rain hard)

The ground has had some updating with improved seating, the iconic tower still stands out (just like at the Centenario) although the scoreboard has gone and it remains virtually entirely open.
The architectural detail does add to the stadiums’ style.

Argentinos Juniors 0 Nacional (Uruguay) 1.

Finally - a visit to the Diego Armando Maradona stadium to see Nacional beat Argentinos in the Libertadores.

Nacional brought plenty of fans from Montevideo to fill the terrace section opposite the main stand.

Their team generally had the upper hand against a stuttering home side who failed to perform.

One goal was enough but with some prompting from the Argentinian Gallardo the away team might have some more goals in the second period.


more pictures at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/714930808