Club: Boca Juniors
Role: Attacking Midfielder
Achievement: A masterful performance as Boca take a decisive first-leg semis lead
A week that could prove decisive in Boca Juniors' bid to complete a remarkable treble started with Juan Roman Riquelme launching a fierce attack on one reporter's suggestion that the Xeneize's success owed more to luck than any great team virtue. Having witnessed a truly brilliant performance from both Julio Falcioni's men and the virtuoso No. 10, that intrepid hack must surely owe Roman a humbling apology.
The former Barcelona and Villarreal star was almost invisible as the Clausura leaders spluttered to a draw against lowly Banfield at the weekend, posing questions for what must be the 1000th time in his career over the playmaker's commitment and durability. All those doubts were expelled, though, as Riquelme dismantled the challenge of Universidad de Chile to lead his side to a 2-0 win.
Jorge Sampaoli's visitors came with a stellar reputation thanks to their Copa Sudamericana exploits and imperious domestic form. But against a ruthless Boca who did not give them an inch all night, the U were a distant second best. Riquelme personally dismissed the notion that a traditional No. 10 had no place in the modern, all-action game typified by the so-called 'Barcelona of the Americas'. He controlled the game from the middle, spraying pass after pass and acting as the heartbeat of the team as he so often has in the past.
His most salient contribution came in the second half, with Boca nursing a slender lead following Santiago Silva's bullet finish. Acting like he had all the pitch as his personal domain, Roman threaded through a perfect ball to Walter Erviti to close in on goal. U keeper Jonny Herrera may have saved the ex-Monterrey man's effort, but Juan Sanchez Mino was on hand to fire in the rebound and give the Argentines vital breathing space to take to Santiago for the second leg.
The semi-final may not be over yet, and Universidad de Chile will be a different prospect on home turf. But any doubters of Boca, or Roman himself, can do nothing except marvel at a player who, days short of his 34th birthday, still has the talent to be considered amongst the very best playmakers in the world.
Cassio, Corinthians: Unbeatable in the Timao goal to deny Santos' attacking all-stars from clawing their way back into a 1-0 win for the Sao Paulo side.
Emerson, Corinthians: Blotted his copybook somewhat with the red card that rules him out of the return leg, but deserves a mention thanks to his perfectly-struck effort which proved to be the only goal of the evening in Vila Belmiro.