Atlético Nacional overcame Rosario Central in Medellín on Thursday night to claim a Copa Libertadores semi final spot after a fiery encounter ended with four goals, four red cards and crucially a slender aggregate win for the Colombians.
Central took a one goal lead to Colombia from last week’s first leg and when Marco Ruben gave El Canalla an early lead from the penalty spot after Jonathan Copete was adjudged to have handled in the area, Eduardo Coudet’s side appeared in control.
With the away goal, Atlético required three unanswered goals and so inevitably the pressure on the Central defence grew as the game wore on.
El Verde were the better side but it took until first half stoppage time to force an equaliser on the night when Macnelly Torres stabbed the ball past Sebastián Sosa from close range.
Central needed to weather the storm in the opening of the second half but an error by Alejandro Donatti allowed Alejandro Guerra to slot in a second and a belief among the Colombians grew.
As the game ticked into injury time, it appeared as though Central may hold out despite having Esteban Burgo sent off late on for a second yellow card.
The visitors should have sealed their own victory in the 93rd minute when Marco Ruben ran clear and squared the ball for Franco Cervi only to see the chance disappear and within a minute, this profligacy was punished.
Substitute Orlando Berrío pounced on a knockdown to lash the ball past Sosa and make it 3-2 on aggregate. His goal not only sparked wild celebration in the Estadio Atanasio Girardot but almost prompted a bench-clearing brawl.
Berrío’s exuberant celebrations in the face of Sosa earned him a red card and in the aftermath Central’s Damián Musto was also given his marching orders. Despite there being only a minute remaining, Giovani Lo Celso was also sent off after giving Alexander Mejía a forearm in the back of the head.
Central’s hopes of a first Libertadores were gone and ugly scenes involving manager Eduardo Coudet marred their exit.
Atlético Nacional will face Edgardo Bauza’s São Paulo in the semi finals while Boca Juniors await the winners of Independiente del Valle and Pumas, who play their second leg next week.
Atlético Nacional 3 – 1 Rosario Central (AGG 3-2)