Junior, Millonarios, Santa Fe and Once Caldas will compete for the right to play in the final of this year’s Liga Postobon after coming out on top in a hard-fought round of quarter-finals.
Millonarios needed penalties to defeat Envigado following a fiercely contested tie that saw the advantage swing back and forth throughout. In the first leg at Envigado, the home side came out 2-1 winners. Envigado got off to a dream start, taking a 2-0 lead with a Jhon Cordoba tap in followed by a superb solo effort from Neider Morantes. However, a long-range thunderbolt from Lewis Ochoa pulled back a crucial goal for Millonarios and gave them hope for the second leg.
The return match was played at a frantic pace, with Millonarios edging possession but Evigado always alert to the break. Millonarios got off to a flying start when Alejandro Cichero scored with a towering header from a corner after nine minutes. Just 17 minutes later and Millonarios had overturned the deficit when Edson Vasquez beat his marker and let fly with a left foot shot to the top corner.
Envigado upped the tempo without descending into panic, aware that a single goal and they would be back in the match. That goal came in the 52 minute when Envigado were controversially awarded a penalty, which Neider Morantes converted.
In the dying minutes, both teams pushed for a winner and both came close. Envigado were denied by a Nelson Ramos save from close range while Millonarios first hit the underside of the crossbar then saw a headed goal ruled offside.
Envigado kicked off the penalty shoot-out in the worst possible fashion when Morantes this time failed to convert, instead seeing his shot saved to the right by Ramos. The next four penalties were all converted, including one from keeper Ramos, whose shot was directed straight at his opposite number but was so powerful it forced its way through his legs. Enivagdo keeper Carlos Barahona made up for the slip by stopping Millonarios’ next penalty taken by Wilson Carpintero, levelling the score. Penalty after penalty was then dispatched until Mauricio Gonzalez Villa stepped up for Envigado’s eighth spot kick and sent it sailing over the bar. Jose Mera then converted to send Millonarios to the semis.
Millonarios will now take on Barranquilla’s Junior, who progressed after a tie wracked by controversy. The first match was abandoned at half-time with the game still goalless after one of the linesmen was injured by a firework set off from the stands. The Colombia soccer authorities held the hosts responsible and awarded a point to Junior but to not to Chico.
In the second leg, Chico stormed into 2-0 lead in the first ten minutes with well-taken goals from J Mostasilla and Jose Correa Villero. Junior however, fought back at the start of the second half. First, Carlos Bacca pulled back a goal after Chico’s Yeison Gordillo was unfortunate to give away a penalty, hitting the ball with his hand as he slipped. That was followed ten minutes later by a freakish lob on the volley from Vladimir Hernandez which dipped from high into the top corner. With their one point advantage from the first match, the draw was enough for Junior.
A 1-0 win in the second leg gave Santa Fe a 4-2 aggregate win over Itagui after a thrilling first match. Itagui twice took the lead in the first leg through goals from Cleider Alzate and twice saw that lead taken away by Santa Fe’s Yulian Anchio. After 12 minutes, Alzate opened the scoring with a curled shot across the goal. The lead lasted until a few minutes before half-time when Anchio headed home. On 57 minutes Alzate restored Itagui’s advantage with a close range shot from a knock down but just three minutes later Anchio again scored with a header. The match was decided in Santa Fe’s favor after a speculative ball from Alejandro Bernal shot took a wicked deflection past the Itagui keeper.
Santa Fe had the best of a physical first half in the return match and took the lead just before half-time with a swerving low free kick from Argentine striker Omar Perez. Itagui were left with it all to do in the second half when after 50 minutes Javier Lopez was sent off for a second bookable offence. With a one man advantage, Sant Fe dominated the rest of the game and Itagui could find no way back.
Two late goals for Once Caldas settled what was otherwise a dull tie with America and ensured they will play Santa Fe in the next round. The first match was a bad tempered, dour 0-0 draw with seven yellow cards and few real chances. Caldas were forced on the defensive after John Pajoy was sent off in the fifth minute following a collision with America’s Bustos. In the fracas that followed Pajoy aimed a push at Bustos face, although the referee was undoubtedly helped in his decision by a theatrical over-reaction from Bustos.
The second leg also remained goalless and relatively chanceless until the 81st minute, when Caldas defender Diego Amaya finished off a team move. Three minutes later and a header from Ayron del Valle secured a semi-final place for Caldas. America will now play Patriotas in the promotion play-off to stay in Liga A on Sunday.
Semi-Finals first legs:
Sunday December 11
3:30 pm Once Caldas VS Santa Fe
5.30 pm Millonarios VS Junior