After 90 minutes of the first leg of the Copa Nicolás Leoz we saw a little bit of everything- except goals. We saw Argentina and Brazil at each other’s throats generating opportunities and even amusing the crowd with only one play. Even the crowd was the protagonist as barrabravas NGO of the Hinchadas Unidas Argentinas entered the Estadio Mario Kempes 20 minutes late to an area that was “especially reserved” for them.
By me saying “going at each other’s throats”, I didn’t say the match was one that was very amusing to the visual palette. Both squads looked rough, but showed signs of having potential in the second of taking the match. Save for Leandro Damião’s magical play in the second half where he did a “sombrerito” over the head of Emiliano Papa and his shot rubbed off the far post.
Mano Menezes’ side was a stronger side on paper. With an attacking trio of Ronaldinho, Neymar, and Damião there was reason to think that the Canarinha could make a difference. Instead, it was the Albiceleste that came out and battled. They were the ones dominated the proceedings in the first half with great play by Juan Manuel Martínez as he was the primary threat to the goal defended by Jefferson.
The big surprise of the night without a doubt was the emergence of Vélez Sarsfield midfielder Héctor Canteros. The up and coming youth product stormed onto the scene and was able to help Martínez have some opportunities to discomfort the Brazilian backline.
If there was an unfortunate event, it had to be the injury to Estudiantes forward Mauro Boselli. The former Boca and Wigan man lasted only 25 minutes after suffering what appeared to be a slight strain in his hamstring. Further tests were done after the match which confirmed that severity to be minor. His presence was vital in the limited time he was on the pitch. The two most important chances for the Argentines emerged during that time.
San Lorenzo man Emanuel Gigliotti came in for the injured Boselli and played the rest of the match.
For Brazil, their unbeaten streak outside of the province of Buenos Aires continues as they have not lost in their last three matches. The return leg will be played in the northern city of Belem.
After their participation in the Copa Roca, Argentina will kick off World Cup qualifying when they face Chile on October 7th and then head to Venezuela just four days later.