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Copa Libertadores

  • May 4, 2011
  • • 02:45
  • • Estadio La Corregidora, Santiago de Querétaro

Santos win Aggregate 1 - 0

America 0-0 Santos (0-1 agg.): Rafael heroics send Santos into quarters by the slimmest of margins

America 0-0 Santos (0-1 agg.): Rafael heroics send Santos into quarters by the slimmest of margins

The Peixe goalkeeper made save after save to ensure America could not break through and make up a 1-0 deficit

Santos withstood an onslaught from America in Mexico to seal a 0-0 draw on Tuesday evening, a result good enough to send them through to the Copa Libertadores quarter final with a 1-0 aggregate victory. Far from their best, the Peixe were saved by an outstanding performance from goalkeeper Rafael, who made countless saves to frustrate the home team and send them out of the competition in the last 16.

With their usual home of the Estadio Azteca occupied by an upcoming visit from U2 America switched venue to Querataro's La Corregidora stadium, and the intimate ground was packed to the rafters for the visit of the Brazilians. Knowing that they had to find at least one goal the Aguilas started positively, while Santos showed no sign that they had travelled to Mexico to sit on a one goal lead and play negatively.

It was the hosts which showed the most danger in the first half, predominately through their Argentine playmaker Daniel Montenegro. The much-travelled veteran was a constant threat from open play and in dead-ball situations, and helped his side spend most of the half on the front foot.

'Rolfi' was even overshadowing much-hyped Santos starlets Ganso and Neymar, who struggled to impose their obvious talents on the game. The Peixe as a whole showed some attractive football but had no clear chances to show for it, thanks primarily to an aggressive pressing game from their rivals which suffocated them in the final third. Danilo set a few pulses racing with a well-hit long-range effort, but his effort went high and wide of Francisco Ochoa's goal.

The best chances of the half fell to America, and specifically emanated from the right boot of Montenegro. Juan Valenzuela and Vicente Sanchez were both agonisingly close to opening the scoring from close range, but on each occasion the ball just eluded them with the goal gaping.

Vicente Vuoso meanwhile had the best chance of the match on picking up the rebound from Montenegro's cross which was headed against the post by Mosquera, but the striker could not turn the ball inside and shot wide for a goal kick.

Santos started the second period looking far more menacing, and Ganso came within a whisker of ending the tie as a contest. Standing over a free kick five minutes in, the number had Ochoa beaten but saw his effort glance off the outside of the post, to the relief of the home fans. The game though started to break down, with America clearly frustrated at their inability to equalise and cynical fouls and disagreements creeping into the match from both sides.

The last half hour saw Santos start to defend their lead, with striker Ze Eduardo sacrificed in the favour of the more defensive Bruno Aguiar. America meanwhile continued to hunt for the crucial goal, and it took an acrobatic stop from Rafael to keep out a stinging effort from substitute Angel Reyna in the 63rd minute.

Edu Dracena had a golden chance to break the deadlock approaching 70 minutes when a floating free kick eluded everyone and found him unmarked at the far post. The defender panicked however and completely miskicked, allowing the ball to roll harmlessly out of play. The game was heating up again, and only a superb one-handed save from Rafael kept out a header from Enrique Esqueda. Montenegro's centres were torturing the Peixe, with the goalkeeper proving the difference between victory and the prospect of an extra half hour and penalties.

The last 20 minutes were extremely uncomfortable for the Peixe, expelling wave after wave of home attacks as America threw everything forward. Rafael continued to excel though; frustrating in particular Reyna who saw two more long-range efforts palmed over the bar.

Vuoso raised hopes with four minutes left when he found space in the Santos box, but a rush of blood to the head took over and the striker fired wildly into the stands. The Peixe though held firm, and the relief was plain on Muricy Ramalho's face when the final whistle went with the score remaining 0-0.

Santos go on to face the winner of Cruzeiro's tie with Once Caldas in the quarter finals, with the Raposa hosting the Colombians on Wednesday after winning the first leg 2-1 away from home.

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