Jorge Jesus and Flamengo overturned a two-goal deficit to progress to the quarter-finals of the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday evening against Emelec. The Brazilian side raced into an early 2-0 lead to level the tie on aggregate before progressing thanks to a penalty shootout victory on a memorable night in front of nearly 68,000 fans at the Maracanã Stadium.
In an eventful midweek for Portuguese there was disappointment for Bruma, with the Portuguese winger again scoring for new club PSV but missing out on Champions League football this season after his team were knockout out of the qualifiers. Olympiakos did progress to the next round, however, thanks to a 4-0 rout of Viktoria Plzen with new signing Rúben Semedo among the goals.
Jorge Jesus took his Flamengo side into their big night in Rio de Janeiro aware that he was under pressure to make a fight of their last-16 Copa Libertadores tie with Ecuadorians Emelec. Flamengo lost the first leg 2-0 in Guayaquil and Jesus faced criticism in the local media for his game management during a poor overall team performance.
The response in front of a boisterous home crowd could not have been more pleasing for the veteran Portuguese boss. Flamengo came flying out of the blocks and should have been ahead inside five minutes when star striker Gabriel Barbosa blazed over from close range as the home side overwhelmed their opponents.
Gabriel would prove the star of the show, netting twice inside the first twenty minutes as Flamengo wiped out Emelec’s advantage with less than a quarter of the match played. The former Inter Milan striker scored from the penalty spot before doubling his and Flamengo’s tally with a beautifully placed shot into the bottom corner on 18 minutes.
"It was not luck" - Jesus
The striker’s early brace would prove to be the only goals on the night and the competition’s rule to have the tie decided on penalties rather than extra time set up a tense shootout after 90 minutes were up. Flamengo held their nerve to score all four of their spot-kicks, while goalkeeper Diego Alves made a vital save from Dixon Arroyo and Nicolas Queiroz struck the bar with the final attempt.
“It was a difficult situation to reverse, but we did it and we prepared well on penalties,” Jesus said after the match. “It was not luck. We trained hard on penalties, even this morning. I want to thank the medical department for the work they have done in recovering important players who have ended up with no problems.
“Second half not as good as the first? It is impossible for a team to keep playing the way we did in the first 45 minutes. When you have 70% of the ball and spend so much time pressing the opposition, the only place you can keep that up is on the PlayStation. I wish to thank the players for doing what they did.”
Jesus opted against joining in the mass celebrations at the end of the game, instead remaining on the bench to catch his breath. “The party was for the players and the fans. Our reception was impressive and the celebrations were for them. I just wanted to relax at that moment.”
Flamengo will meet fellow Brazilian side Internacional in the quarter-finals of the competition later this month. Next up on the domestic calendar is a trip to Bahia on Sunday evening in the Campeonato Brasileiro.
Champions League: Bruma and PSV out; Olympiakos through
Mixed news for Portuguese in Europe’s Champions League qualification matches as PSV, with new signing Bruma, miss out on this year’s tournament while Pedro Martins’ Olympiakos are through to the third qualifying round along with Carmona’s CFR Cluj.
The disappointment for Bruma, who opted to join PSV ahead of Porto last month from RB Leipzig, was particularly acute given the Portuguese winger scored in both legs of his team’s tie with Basel. PSV won the first leg 3-2 in the Netherlands, giving Bruma’s men a slight advantage heading into the return in Switzerland.
The advantage was wiped out after just seven minutes thanks to Eray Comert’s thunderous free-kick, but Bruma levelled for the visitors with a superb header on 22 minutes. The equaliser put PSV back in charge of the tie, but a second-half goal from former Sporting striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel saw Basel into the next round.
Olympiakos are also through by virtue of a 4-0 hammering of Czechs Viktoria Plzen in Greece. The first leg ended goalless but Pedro Martins’ Olympiakos proved too strong in Piraeus and the scoring ended on an especially high note for Rúben Semedo as the Portuguese defender grabbed his first for his new club. José Sá and Daniel Podence also played for the Greek side as they set up a meeting with Turks Istanbul Basaksehir. Elsewhere, Camora was in defence for CFR Cluj as they progressed 3-2 on aggregate against Israelis Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
Finally, a first win in Ukrainian football for Luís Castro with Shakhtar Donetsk as the champions began their Premier League title defence with a 3-1 win at Oleksandria on Wednesday evening. Castro’s side were behind at half time but the comeback means Shakhtar already assume top spot after one round of the new season.
By Sean Gillen