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Copa Libertadores Special: To Get To The Final, Home Specialists Internacional Have Done It The Hard Way

Copa Libertadores Special: To Get To The Final, Home Specialists Internacional Have Done It The Hard Way

Daniel Edwards tracks the Colorado's progress to tomorrow's final against Chivas - and discovers that it has been anything but straightforward.

The path of Brazilian club Internacional in the Copa Libertadores has been anything but smooth this year, with fans of the Porto Alegre club put through the emotional wringer time and again, as their team has squeaked rather than cantered past opposition. If that wasn't enough, they also started and will be finishing the campaign with two different coaches.

Incredibly the ‘Gauchos’ have failed to win a single game away from their Beira-Rio home. In the group stages, three draws were good enough to see them through, while in the knockout stage, they have the unenviable record of three games, three defeats. It is in front of their own fans however that they have shown themselves invincible: six times they have taken the field, six wins, and only one goal conceded. This kind of form marks them out as legitimate championship contenders: just don’t expect fireworks tomorrow night away in Guadalajara!!

First Round:

Lady luck was smiling on the Colorados right from the outset, as the draw for the 2009 Copa Libertadores pitted them against Deportivo Quito and Emelec of Ecuador and Uruguay’s Cerro- avoiding the dangerous Argentine challengers and the dark horses of Colombian and Paraguayan football. Playing Emelec first off at home, Inter went one down after 49 minutes with a goal from David Quiroz - it would be the last opposition strike in the Beira Rio for - to date - nearly 500 minutes of football. Goals from Nei and Alecsandro secured a comeback victory for the rattled Brazilians.


Full back Nei equalises against Emelec

This inauspicious start was followed by two forgettable away draws against Deportivo and Cerro, before Inter finally began to find their stride in the fourth fixture. A Walter Ibañez own goal and Alecsandro earned a 2-0 victory in front of their own fans against Cerro, while another 0-0 away stalemate with Emelec was followed a convincing 3-0 demolition of Deportivo. Inter finished top of their group with 12 points, but showed little to suggest continental glory was on the horizon.

Final Group Standings:

Team

Pld

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

Pts

Internacional

6

3

3

0

8

2

+6

12

Deportivo Quito

6

3

1

2

5

7

−2

10

Cerro

6

2

2

2

5

5

0

8

Emelec

6

0

2

4

2

6

−4

2



Last 16: Vs Banfield (Argentina)

If the group stages were mediocre for Inter, the start to their second round tie was positively disastrous. Playing Argentine champions Banfield the Colorados were taken apart in the Florencio Sola, deservedly falling 3-1 to goals from Roberto Battion, Sebastian Fernandez and young sensation James Rodriguez. The Brazilians had one glimpse of hope however; a beautiful half volley from Kleber meant that they would go back to Porto Alegre with the all-important away goal.

This thread Inter were clinging to proved decisive in the return match. Playing in front of 35,000 home fans in the Beira Rio Banfield sunk to a 2-0 defeat, which meant an early Libertadores exit on away goals. Alecsandro and Walter were the Brazilian heroes with a goal either side of half time, and Internacional lived to fight another day. Up against current champions and fellow Argentines Estudiantes in the next round however, it looked as though the Colorado fortune was set to run dry.


Rodriguez' exertions weren't quite sufficient for Banfield to progress

Quarter Final: Vs Estudiantes de la Plata (Argentina)

The Quarter Final clash was a classic case of attrition football from Internacional, who never let up their pressure despite being second best for large stretches of the game. In the first leg in Porto Alegre Estudiantes were more than a match for the home side, but tired legs showed in the final minutes and Gonzalo Sorondo swooped to give the Colorados a slim 1-0 lead to take back to Argentina.

In a pressure-cooker atmosphere Estudiantes comprehensively outplayed their rivals, and could see the semi-finals on the horizon thanks to strikes from Leandro Gonzalez and Enzo Perez. The Pincha however were exhausted from the exertions of fighting a Copa battle and also going for the league, and it showed in the final minutes as Juan Sebastian Veron for one almost came to a standstill. In their fatigued confusion and with smoke from a flare engulfing the Argentines’ goal, Giuliano was played through by Andrezinho and the young starlet broke Pincha hearts, scoring in the 88th minute to put Inter through on away goals once more.

Semi Final: Vs Sao Paulo (Brazil)

The stage was set then for an all-Brazil clash, and one in which Internacional seemed to hold all the historical advantages. They had defeated the Tricolor in 2006 to lift the Copa for the first time in their history; not only that, but the loss had sent Sao Paulo on a torrid run of four defeats in four years to Brazilian opposition in the Copa.

It looked like five was on the horizon after a dire Tricolor performance saw them go down 1-0 at the Beira Rio- inspired goalkeeping from Rogerio Ceni was the only reason the home side could not add to substitute Giuliano’s second half goal.

The home leg was a different story however, and a reshuffled Sao Paulo side came out far more positively in front of 62,000 at the Morumbi. It was not to be however for Ricardo Gomes’ team. Alecsandro’s 52nd minute strike punctuated home efforts from Alex Silva and Ricardo Oliveira for a 2-1 away defeat, and despite an outstanding last Tricolor appearance from Lazio-bound Hernanes, Inter progressed to the final for the third time by virtue of away goals.

Track all the results and news from South America's premier club competition with Goal.com's comprehensive Copa Libertadores coverage.

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