Another busy midweek full of continental action around the world has drawn to a close, so here are some of the biggest matches and results we witnessed:
🏆 Copa Libertadores: Boca Juniors 1-1 Palmeiras (2-2 on aggregate; 2-4 on penalties)
The Copa Libertadores semi-finals did not disappoint.
On Wednesday night, Fluminense staged a dramatic late turnaround against Internacional to reach just their second final of South America’s premier club competition.
The following day, two of the continent’s biggest and most successful clubs battled it out till the end and ultimately needed penalties to decide the second team that will visit the Maracanã for the final.
Edinson Cavani gave the visitors the lead in the first half, but a silly sending-off for Marcos Rojo in the 66th minute saw Palmeiras get an even bigger boost in momentum as they desperately sought an equaliser.
Joaquín Piquerez’s piledriver gave them just that, leading to a penalty shoot-out after the full-time whistle was blown.
Cavani failed to score the first kick of the shoot-out, but his goalkeeper Sergio Romero came up trumps by saving the subsequent two Palmeiras efforts.
The rest of Boca’s takers scored their efforts, bringing them within touching distance of their seventh Copa Libertadores title.
🏆 UEFA Champions League: Newcastle United 4-1 Paris Saint-Germain
Champions League football returned to St James’ Park after two decades with a huge match-up that saw Newcastle United take on Paris Saint-Germain.
The French champions seemed to have undergone a shift in approach over the summer which should make them better suited to competing with Europe’s top teams, but Newcastle’s greatest strength was their biggest weakness – an incredibly intense high press.
Fearing what it might do to his side’s midfield, Luis Enrique switched to a 4-2-4 formation and seemingly instructed his players to quickly transition to the front four while building up, getting mixed results initially.
However, a silly individual mistake from Marquinhos undid their good work, after which it all went downhill.
The visitors lacked clinicality in the final third, which is exactly what the hosts seemed to excel at. Newcastle seemed to score from every threatening attacking situation they got into, leading to quite the final scoreline.
There is a long way to go in this group stage, but Newcastle are topping the Group of Death.
🏆 Copa Sudamericana: Fortaleza 2-0 Corinthians (3-1 on aggregate)
South America’s secondary continental competition has a pretty exciting climax set, as Ecuadorian outfit LDU Quito will take on first-time finalists Fortaleza.
LDU did their damage in the first leg against Defensa y Justicia, so the semi-final to watch this week was Fortaleza’s tie against Corinthians.
Fortaleza, one of the most historic clubs from the northeastern region of Brazil having been founded over a century ago, have been enjoying a great time of late as they made their continental debut in 2019 and Copa Libertadores debut in 2021
They have added to that list of achievements by qualifying for their first continental final.
Goals in quick succession from Yago Pikachu and Tinga saw them get the better of Corinthians in this second leg, so they can now turn their focus to preparing for their biggest match of the season at the end of this month.
🏆 UEFA Europa League: Aris Limassol 2-1 Rangers
Back in Europe, one historic club enjoying some not-so-great times at the moment are Rangers.
They just sacked Michael Beale earlier in the week after a disappointing start to the season that has seen them slip seven points behind Celtic with just as many games played in the league, so interim head coach Steven Davis took charge of their Europa League trip to Limassol to face the Cypriot champions.
Aris are making their European group stage debut this season, and they registered their first win with an effective performance against a toothless opponent.
The hosts had a two-goal lead before the hour-mark, which they held on to comfortably at the end.
Rangers have a lot of work to do if they are to get back to the level they are aiming for.
🏆 AFC Champions League: Ventforet Kofu 1-0 Buriram United
Our final story of the week also sees a first-time continental victory for debutantes, this time in the shape of J2 League side Ventforet Kofu.
They only survived relegation from the Japanese second tier by a slender margin last season, but an unforgettable cup triumph saw them directly qualify for Asia’s premier cup competition.
At the time, some might have feared that they would be blown away by their opposition, but that has not proven to be the case at all.
After taking the game to Australian champions Melbourne City in a goalless tie for their debut, Ventforet Kofu went one better in their first AFC Champions League match on Japanese soil by beating Buriram United with a 90th-minute winner!
The J2 league side are playing their AFC games away from home at the National Stadium in Tokyo, so fans of other clubs also joined in to support the second-tier side’s continental adventure.
This match and result were testament to Japanese fan culture and the strength in depth of the top two leagues in the country.
Stats courtesy Transfermarkt and Opta via FotMob.
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