Santiago Silva and Juan Sanchez Mino were both on target as Boca Juniors recorded an impressive 2-0 victory at home to Universidad de Chile. The Argentines were flawless as they took a decisive advantage in the first leg of the Copa Libertadores semi-final, while the U's much-vaunted attacking prowess was ineffective against Boca's impeccable backline.
The teams came out into a packed Bombonera with the pitch barely visible through the haze of a balmy winter's evening in Buenos Aires. The pre-match festivities did not help; Boca fans set off hundreds of fireworks in a raucous semi-final reception, meaning kick off was delayed for several minutes while the match officials waited for the smoke to clear.
Once the ball finally started rolling, Universidad demonstrated that they had no intention of playing for a draw away from home. Jorge Sampaoli's men looked to get forward whenever possible in a characteristically attacking performance; but it was Boca who threatened first when Santiago Silva fired past the post with a fierce left-footed effort.
Walter Erviti also went close in the opening exchanges, but the home fans did not have to wait long for their team to push into the lead. Pablo Mouche made space for himself down the right with his habitual tenacity and pace, and his cross was met by Silva who, given time to turn by momentarily lax marking, smashed the ball past Jonny Herrera to send the Bombonera into raptures.
The U continued to push forward, but found it a frustrating exercise as the formidable Xeneize backline refused to give the Chileans a moment's respite. Marcelo Diaz had perhaps the best of Universidad's few chances in the first 45 minutes, but his sweetly-struck free kick was parried away by Agustin Orion and Boca took a slim lead into the half-time break.
Silva had a golden chance to add a second just one minute into the second half, but Herrera pulled off an astonishing save at full stretch to keep the deficit at one. the Uruguayan did brilliantly to get on the end of a looping cross, but his efforts were matched perfectly by the keeper who tipped behind for a corner. Mouche was the next to threaten after Gustavo Lorenzetti had been robbed of the ball, only to balloon harmlessly over with space and time to do better.
The second would not take much longer to arrive, however. Herrera did well to parry Erviti's effort after the Xeneize walked through the Chilean defence with some wonderfully measured passing, but he could do nothing to stop young Juan Sanchez Mino who blasted the rebound home to the delight of his team-mates. Boca were on top form after the break, as seen by their frustration as another pause in play was necessitated by the descent of more smoke reducing pitch visibility to unacceptable levels. Both Juan Roman Riquelme and Rolando Schiavi went to the terraces and pleaded with fans to stop lighting flares and fireworks.
It was business as usual when play resumed though. A tantalising cross from Mouche almost found Erviti, whose despairing dive only got enough on the ball to divert it behind for a goal kick.
The withdrawal of Matias Rodriguez afforded the U a little more stability and balance across the pitch, but they continued to founder against a Boca defence marshalled by the interminable Schiavi and a brilliant performance on the right from Facundo Roncaglia. Orion was barely tested in the Xeneize net, as Boca cruised through the final minutes to record the victory.
The result gives the Argentines a boost ahead of next week's semi-final second leg, while Universidad will be disappointed they could not find the away goal which would have strengthened their fight back in Santiago. The winner of the last-four clash will go on to meet either Santos or Corinthians in the Libertadores' showpiece match.