Copa Libertadores: Racing progress despite defeat to Cruzeiro (VIDEO)

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Top spot in Group E was the only thing to play for on Tuesday evening with Cruzeiro and Racing Club already secured of a place in the Copa Libertadores last 16 but victory for the Brazilians meant a first defeat of the tournament for La Academia and second place.

That will in theory give Racing a tougher tie in the next round but in the Libertadores it is rarely so clear-cut. However, it could well have been leading scorer Lautaro Martínez’s last game at the club before the striker completes his move to Inter and so it will be an interesting window for Eduardo Coudet.

After what has been a superb 2018 under Coudet, Racing have ended the season on something of a sour note with defeat to Colón denying them a place in the 2019 Copa Libertadores and shock defeat to Sarmiento de Resistencia in the Copa Argentina.

The loss of midfielder Nery Dominguez to injury has had a huge impact and in Belo Horizonte, Racing started dreadfully.

Thiago Neves fired in from close range after only two minutes and shortly after Lucas Silva rifled in a low shot from outside the box to double the lead.

The two-goal deficit sparked Racing into life and Ricardo Centurión, fresh from the disappointment of being cut from Jorge Sampaoli’s final World Cup squad, volleyed a goal back.

Augusto Solari’s delicate chip over goalkeeper Fabio should have brought Racing level but instead came back off the post before Cruzeiro wasted a golden opportunity of their own, Juan Musso denying Giorgian De Arrascaeta when one-on-one.

The second half couldn’t keep up with the frantic first half but Cruzeiro held on for all three points and with took top spot on goal difference, thanks to their 7-0 demolition of Universidad de Chile.

Racing’s only means of qualifying for the 2019 edition is to win the Libertadores – with Martínez, La Academia are contenders; without, the club need to buy very well in the window.

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