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This Week In Football: Deportivo Pereira’s Libertadores run ending, Al-Nassr survive a scare & more

Continental knockouts and qualifiers dominate the agenda in this week’s column as we have reached the decisive stages in many parts of the world, so there are quite a few interesting storylines.

🏆 Copa Libertadores: Deportivo Pereira 0-4 Palmeiras

The first legs of the Copa Libertadores quarter-finals were held this week, featuring tournament debutantes Deportivo Pereira in one of the ties.

The Colombian champions have certainly exceeded expectations in their first season alongside the elite in South America.

After progressing from a group that included Boca Juniors, Chilean giants Colo Colo and Venezuelan side Monagas, they got the better of Independiente del Valle in their first knockout tie to keep their run going.

Unfortunately, it looks set to end now against Palmeiras. The Brazilian giants have enjoyed a great deal of success in the Copa Libertadores of late and clearly seemed to be a class above their opponents in the first leg.

The visitors scored three goals in an 11-minute period in the first half to take control of the match and added a fourth late on to take a massive lead to São Paulo, where they should comfortably advance to the semi-finals. Palmeiras look set to have a great chance to win a third men’s Libertadores title in four years.

🏆 Copa Sudamericana: LDU de Quito 2-1 São Paulo

The other São Paulo-based club tasting continental football did not have such a great week, as they trail after their first leg against LDU in Ecuador.

São Paulo seemed to leave far too much space between their lines when defending high up the pitch, which is something the hosts exploited to great effect early on.

Wingers Renato Ibarra and Jhojan Julio combined for two goals in the first quarter of an hour, getting their team off to a great start.

They still have some work to do – especially after conceding to Lucas Moura late on – but LDU de Quito are one step away from reaching their first continental semi-final since 2011.

🌍 UEFA Champions League Qualifiers: Raków Częstochowa 0-1 FC København

Over in Europe, we are yet to start the new continental season’ proper’s group stages as all the teams have not yet been decided. They soon should be, as we have reached the final play-off round of the qualifying stage.

Raków Częstochowa have reached this stage of the Europa Conference League qualifiers in each of the last two seasons, but they have fallen short on both occasions and are yet to make their group stage debut in a UEFA competition.

That will change this season as they have advanced to the final round of the Champions League qualifiers, so all that remains to be decided is which competition they will feature in.

At the moment, the Europa League seems likelier. The first-time Polish champions got the better of Flora of Estonia, Azerbaijani giants Qarabağ and Cypriot title-holders Aris Limassol to get to the play-off round, but the far more experienced FC København seem to be their toughest test yet.

Although they lost the first leg, they definitely gave a great account of themselves and went down by the narrowest of margins due to an own goal, so a second leg turnaround could well be on the cards.

🌍 AFC Champions League Qualifiers: Al Nassr 4-2 Shabab Al Ahli

Unlike in Europe, the Asian Champions League qualifiers are one-legged affairs, so there is a lot more on the line in each individual fixture.

Al Nassr got a stark reminder of that when Shabab Al Ahli gave them a massive scare in their play-off match. Despite taking the lead through Anderson Talisca early on, the hosts trailed in the second half because of Yahya Al-Ghassani’s brace. They were frustrated and on course to crash out until the 88th minute, when substitute Sultan Al-Ghannam scored an equaliser.

The Saudi Pro League side completed their turnaround in stoppage time, as Talisca scored a winner five minutes after the 90 and Marcelo Brozović beefed up the scoreline even later. With that, Al Nassr secured their return to the group stage of the Champions League after three years away.

🇺🇸 US Open Cup: FC Cincinnati 3-3 Inter Miami (4-5 on penalties)

Having helped his side conquer the Leagues Cup, Lionel Messi made his US Open Cup debut in the semi-final stage.

Inter Miami had the chance to qualify for two major finals in the space of a couple of weeks having never done so in the past, but standing in their way were Major League Soccer leaders FC Cincinnati.

Pat Noonan’s side showed just why they were at the top of the league ladder by opening up a two-goal lead by the 53rd minute when they really had Miami on the ropes. They could not deliver a knockout blow, though, and would go on to regret that.

Messi picked out striker Leonardo Camapana twice thereafter, including deep into stoppage time to take the game to extra time.

Josef Martínez then seemingly set the visitors on the course for a win with an early strike just three minutes into the period, but Yuya Kubo equalised later on to bring penalties into the equation.

Miami’s takers remained faultless while Cincinnati’s last effort was saved, enabling local youngster Benjamin Cremaschi to win it with the last kick.

Stats courtesy Transfermarkt and FotMob.

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