Enjoying just the group stage of the Copa Libertadores was achievement in itself for Atlético Tucumán but on Thursday evening, El Decano secured the point needed against Libertad to historically reach the last 16.
Victory over Peñarol had given Atlético every chance but Ricardo Zielinski’s side still needed to travel to Asunción knowing that a point was likely still required against group winners Libertad.
A task that was made all the more difficult when goalkeeper Alejandro Sánchez was sent off before half time. Atlético with Cristian Lucchetti and Augusto Batalla already out injured had to turn to fourth-choice goalkeeper Franco Pizzicannella and the youngster’s first job was almost picking the ball out of the net as Santiago Salcedo’s free-kick hit the post.
With Peñarol beating The Strongest in Uruguay, Atlético had to hold on and while Libertad understandably dominated possession, Pizzicannella was not tested a great deal.
El Decano managed to see it through and with the goalless draw, book a place in the Libertadores last 16 for the first time in the club’s history.
Libertad 0 – 0 Atlético Tucumán
A little later in Bogotá, Independiente earned a point against Millonarios that means the fate of El Rojo remains in their own hands ahead of next week’s final round.
However, Ariel Holan’s side could have all but secured qualification were it not for the goalkeeping of Wuilkar Faríñez and some typically wasteful finishing.
Faríñez had denied Alan Franco and Martín Benítez during a poor first half but it was Nicolás Figal, guilty of missing the game’s best chance before the break.
The second half began in much the same way and soon after Faríñez produced his best stop to keep out a point-blank Emmanuel Gigliotti header, Millonarios broke the deadlock. A handball against Fernando Amorebieta saw Andrés Cadavid fire the ball low past Martín Campaña.
Independiente needed a draw to ensure that they remained in control of second spot in Group G and it wasn’t long until they were level. A swift counter released Gigliotti and the centre forward cut back inside Cadavid to blast the ball past Faríñez.
El Rojo could have snatched all three points but Gigliotti couldn’t finish what looked like a certain goal when Benítez rolled the ball into his path.
Corinthians thrashing Deportivo Lara 7-2 means that the Brazilians take top spot and next week’s final round of games could see any one of the remaining three teams take second. Independiente currently occupy that place and so a win over Deportivo Lara in Avellaneda would guarantee their progression.