The Paraguayans will take on Neymar, Elano and Santos in the last four, after squeezing past Jaguares in a tight quarterfinal clash.A second half goal from Pedro Benitez confirmed Cerro Porteno's place in the Copa Libertadores semifinal for the first time since 1999, as an uncharacteristic mistake from Jaguares goalkeeper Fabian Villasenor condemned his team to a 1-0 defeat in Asuncion- confirming a 2-1 aggregate victory in the last quarterfinal clash.
The previously solid shot-stopper flapped horribly at a high ball propelled to the far post, and of two Cerro players challenging it was Benitez that got enough on the ball to score the game's only goal after 72 minutes. The Mexicans also finished the game with 10 men, after Ismael Fuentes saw red late on as the match threatened to boil over.
After a 1-1 draw in the first leg, the opening half passed in a cagey fashion, as neither side wished to concede a goal which could potentially be devastating to their Copa Libertadores dreams. Somewhat surprisingly it was Cerro Porteno which took the early initiative in its own stadium, despite last week's away goal putting it in a winning position- and the Ciclon were buoyed by a capacity crowd who sang without pause throughout the first 45.
The Paraguayans' creative trio of Jonathan Fabbro, Ivan Torres and Juan Manuel Lucero were key to their efforts, and some neat interplay had Jaguares on the back foot early on. Cerro's best chance came after 11 minutes, through tournament top scorer Roberto Nanni.
The Argentine made space for himself from a corner routine, and it took an excellent save from Fabian Villasenor to push the ball away for another corner. The goalkeeper also got down well to deny Fabbro from a free kick, in the two clearest opportunities of the half.
The Chiapas side meanwhile started cautiously, and looked most dangerous from set-pieces as they aimed for powerful Colombian forward Jackson Martinez. Clear-cut chances however were not coming Jaguares' way, as the home defense stood resolute.
The game then went into the break 0-0, with Cerro showing more intention of getting forward. The visitors needed a big effort in the second period, although they knew that just one goal could be sufficient to send them into the last four in their very first Libertadores campaign.
The Ciclon started the second half in a similar fashion to the first, taking the initiative early on and looking to press their opponents from the center circle onwards. Nanni gave Chiapas another scare within 40 seconds of the restart, when he did wonderfully to connect with Luis Caceres' cross before turning it over under pressure from Ismael Fuentes.
The Mexicans also showed signs of lifting their game, and Jorge Rodriguez gave goalkeeper Diego Barreto one of his first tasks on the evening when he fired a free kick into his arms. A moment of attention though almost let Pedro Benitez in, and the Paraguayan defender will be disappointed that he could not hit the target with a free header.
As the period developed it was Jaguares which found itself on the front foot, inspired by some great play down the left flank from Ricardo Esqueda. Cerro began to retreat, defending much deeper, and the attacking play of the early stages had all but disappeared as conserving a flimsy lead became the goal with 30 minutes left on the clock. The change was reflected in the stands, as the Olla became muted with anxiety and the home faithful began to nervously glance at their watches.
Fabbro however was always a danger, and had Villasenor scrambling to save down low with a shot from distance. It was from the very same corner won by the Argentine that Cerro broke the deficit, and put one foot into the last four.
The previously faultless Villasenor could not deal with a high ball caused by Fuentes' miscued header, and as the goalkeeper flailed Pedro Benitez got his head on the ball to send it into the net. The defender was mobbed by his teammates and the stadium once more exploded with noise, realizing that a Jaguares goal would now do no more than force penalties.
The game was by no means over, however. Minutes after the goal Fuentes tried to atone by propelling a corner towards the goal, and a relieved Barreto blasted his defense after the effort rebounded off the crossbar and over.
Backs against the wall, Chiapas saw its chances lessen even further when Fuentes earned himself a red card, picking up a second yellow after 83 minutes to leave his side with 10 men. There was no further advance on the scoreline, and the Estadio General Rojas exploded as the home team celebrated its first appearance in the last four for 12 years.
The Ciclon's prize for victory is another meeting with Brazilian powerhouses Santos, which it met in the group stages. The first leg will be played next week, with times and venues to be confirmed. The game also marked a personal landmark for coach Leonardo Astrada, who celebrated his 40th Libertadores as a tecnico following previous campaigns with River Plate, Estudiantes and Rosario Central in Argentina.
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