The Copa Libertadores semi finals are set and two colossal Argentina-Brazil clashes will decide this year’s finalists – River Plate had already booked their date with champions Grêmio and on Thursday evening, fierce rivals Boca Juniors sealed a showdown with Palmeiras as a potential Superclásico final looms.
There is of course much to do before that becomes reality and after battling past Cruzeiro, Guillermo Barros Schelotto knows his side must improve if they are to beat Palmeiras.
Boca’s first leg victory was steeped in controversy after Cruzeiro defender Dede was sent off for a clash of heads with Boca’s Esteban Andrada, a blow which left the goalkeeper with a broken jaw, but helped Boca run out 2-0 winners.
CONMEBOL’s decision to rescind that red card saw Dede line up once more in the second leg but the Brazilian was again at the centre of the action.
Cruzeiro thought for a moment that they had reduced the deficit just before half time. Hernán Barcos volleying in at a corner but not before referee Andrés Cunha had already spotted Dede almost decapitate a second Boca goalkeeper with his boot narrowly missing Agustín Rossi’s head.
Dede did eventually earn a yellow card for another collision with Rossi and the defender’s luck would run out soon enough.
Sadly for Cruzeiro that moment came after substitute Sassá volleyed a goal back and set up an exciting last half an hour in which the home needed another goal to force penalties.
Few would have bet against another with Boca dropping deeper and deeper but when Dede left a boot in on Cristian Pavón, the 30-year-old was shown his second red card in two games, and Boca could breathe a sigh of relief.
Just as they did in La Bombonera in Dede’s absence, Boca took full advantage. Ramón Ábila flicked the ball in behind and Pavón raced through to smash the ball past Fábio and ensure it would be the Xeneizes in the next round.