Copa Libertadores: Marco Ruben hat-trick downs Boca Juniors & San Lorenzo earn valuable win over Palmeiras (VIDEO)

Three huge Argentina-Brazil clashes dominated this week’s Copa Libertadores action as the group stage reached its halfway point. Champions River Plate look to kick start their campaign on Wednesday away to Internacional and there were mixed fortunes on Tuesday as Boca Juniors suffered a damaging loss to Athletico Paranaense while San Lorenzo scored a terrific victory over Palmeiras.

Boca’s trip to Curitiba always had the look of a game that may decide top spot in Group G and if that is indeed the case then Gustavo Alfaro’s side may have to make do with second after being soundly beaten.

The impressive Rony had already forced Esteban Andrada into action with a stinging long range effort when the flying forward nicked the ball off Julio Buffarini. The 23-year-old laid it off for Lucho González and while the Argentine’s shot was scuffed, Marco Ruben was on hand to redirect it into the net.

Going back and forth Boca carried some threat but were well below par and after carelessly losing possession once more in midfield a swift counter saw Bruno Guimarães sprint clear rolling the ball across goal for Ruben to slide in his and Athletico’s second.

The goal appeared to deflate Boca who eventually introduced Cristian Pavón and Mauro Zárate from the bench. But it was too late and ten minutes from time a corner was headed against the crossbar allowing Ruben to react quickly and nod in a third from close range.

Ruben looked a player in the very final stages of his career last season at Rosario Central but showed all his penalty box instincts to become only the second player to score a Copa Libertadores hat-trick against Boca. If Deportes Tolima defeat Jorge Wilstermann on Wednesday, Boca will slip to third and next week’s visit of the Bolivians to La Bombonera will be absolutely must-win.

If there was one Argentine side who looked most likely to falter against Brazilian opposition this week it was San Lorenzo as Jorge Almirón’s side sit bottom of the Superliga and have been in dreadful form. However, Marcelo Herrera’s low strike shortly after half time was enough to give El Ciclón victory and take control of Group F.

A Gonzalo Castellani shot rebounded off the foot of the post and a spectacular Moisés bicycle kick clattered against the crossbar as both side’s came close to a first half opener. A game of fine margins was decide five minutes after the restart when Herrera pushed forward from full-back and just as he did to salvage a point against Gimnasia at the weekend, the 20-year-old found the net. There was no need for a deflection on this occasion as the ball flew through a defender’s legs and left Weverton helpless in goal.

Palmeiras would come close to an equaliser but unable to find one last year’s beaten semi-finalists slipped to defeat. San Lorenzo host Melgar next week and another victory would all but guarantee Los Cuervos a place in the last 16 with two games to spare.

Athletico Paranaense  3 – 0  Boca Juniors

San Lorenzo  1 – 0  Palmeiras

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