One hand might be on the Superliga title already but Boca Juniors still have plenty to do if they are to progress from the group stages of this year’s Copa Libertadores after defeat to Palmeiras in La Bombonera.
Among the favourites to lift the title, Boca could be travelling to Barranquilla next week needing to beat old enemy Teo Gutiérrez and the rest of his Junior side just to reach the knockout stages.
Boca’s draw in São Paulo two weeks ago had left Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side well positioned despite only winning once but that was on the condition that they won their games back at La Bombonera. However, another limp team display that was dependant on the individual talent of Cristian Pavón to unlock the opposition allowed Palmeiras to book their place in the next stage already.
It has been the case now for a number of weeks and while Boca appear to have done just enough to defend their league title, they are in now under severe pressure in the Libertadores.
Goalkeeper Agustín Rossi, almost gifting Palmeiras a goal inside two minutes set the tone and has now intensified the need for a new number one but Boca’s problems at present run deeper than just between the posts.
Woeful defending was at fault for Keno’s opener just before half time as the Brazilian headed past Rossi completely unmarked and Boca’s hopes of getting back into the game were through Pavón. Ramón Ábila, guilty of wasting the best chance immediately after falling behind, when stabbing wide from a yard out after Pavón’s drilled cross.
Pushing for an equaliser Boca looked the more likely next scorers with Pablo Pérez going close after the break but after 67 minutes a Rossi error allowed Palmeiras to double their lead. Racing off his line to head the ball clear, the 22-year-old was left stranded on the edge of his penalty area as Lucas Lima gently lobbed the ball over his head into an empty net.
Boca had the ball in the net but Carlos Tevez was correctly flagged for offside and with that went the home side’s hopes of salvaging anything.
Should Junior beat Alianza Lima in Colombia on Thursday, Boca would be outside the qualifying places ahead of next week’s trip to Barranquilla.
Boca Juniors 0 – 2 Palmeiras
Earlier in Tucumán, Atlético took a step towards progressing from their group with victory over The Strongest.
The historic win in La Paz last week paved the way but El Decano had to ensure that it wasn’t in vain when the Bolivians visited the Estadio Monumental José Fierro.
Thankfully there was to be no slip up from Ricardo Zielinski’s side as Leandro Diaz slotted in an opener after half an hour and Gervasio Núñez volleyed a second just before the break.
Atlético had looked dangerous on the counter throughout and a minute from time, the iconic Luis Miguel Rodríguez tapped in a third to seal the win.
Peñarol play Libertad on Thursday which will have an obvious bearing on the group but next week visit of the Uruguayans to Tucumán looks set to determine who reaches the next round.