Hello there fútbol fans! El Bolso is on vacation from the jobby job this week, but I wouldn’t think of leaving my loyal fans without their fix of Uruguay news. This one will be on the short side, but you will still get all the info you need to know to be go-to source for Celeste news in your office and/or home.
A Two Horse Race?
Six months ago, Carlos de Pena was scoring in Libertadores Cup games. This weekend he may have put himself back in the mix for one of Nacional’s hotly contested forward spots.
We’re six weeks into the Uruguayan season now, and even though there’s still a lot of soccer to be played and team performance in this tournament has historically been uneven, the Apertura race is starting to look like it’s going to be a head-to-head match-up between an established power (Nacional) and a scrappy newcomer (Racing Club). Three of their close pursuers stumbled this weekend: Peñarol and El Tanque played one another on Saturday and could do no better than a 1-1 tie (the third straight tie for Nacional’s hated rivals), and Fénix lost to River Plate in a Monday night game (scheduled that way because of River’s Copa Sudamericana obligations). On Sunday, Racing was also headed for a tie against reigning Second Division champion Tacuarembó, but a last minute own goal gave the Cerveceros a win and the league lead for one more week. Nacional had no such troubles: two goals by returning attacker Carlos de Pena allowed the Tricolores to beat another newly-promoted team, Atenas de San Carlos.
De Pena has not been getting a lot of playing time this season (in fact he was not even on the bench for several games), and had resorted to begging his way onto the reserve team to stay in playing form, so it’s good to see him make a splash in his return. However, he needs to get his priorities in order. In the 31st minute, top league scorer Iván Alonso received a pass on the right side of the attack and headed into the box, curving a shot past the Atenas keeper for what looked to be his 8th goal of the tournament. As the ball was on the end line, however, de Pena, who was racing in ahead of two defenders, barely brushed up against it, and the referee gave him the goal. Maybe you could argue that he was making sure the defenders didn’t get to it in time, but it sure looked from here like that ball was going in no matter what. I know there’s no “I” in team, but taking away Ivan’s goals like that isn’t going to take you off the reserve team, Carlos. The good news is that Alonso, who spent most of last season loudly protesting every play he was involved in (he says he was going through serious personal problems), didn’t seem to mind at all; he celebrated with de Pena, and seven minutes later fed him a sweet pass across to the left side of the box for de Pena’s second goal.
Nacional could have and (and probably should have) had a few more, but the 2-0 win allows them to keep pace with Racing ahead of a tough Week 7 match-up against last year’s runner up, Wanderers. As far as the table is concerned, Racing is in the lead, Nacional is 1 point behind and Rentistas, a 3-0 winner this weekend against the defending champs Danubio (more like defending chumps, amirite?), 3 points off the lead. Peñarol has fallen to 4 points behind Racing, and El Tanque is now 5 points back.
Good News Abroad
“My hair’s great, isn’t it? Look at this hair! Zlatan wishes he had hair like this!”
The Celeste expatriates did well this week: Edinson Cavani scored PSG’s only goal in a 1-1 tie against Olympique de Lyon, a result that keeps the team within striking distance of French League leaders Olympique Marseille (the French really like the Olympics I guess). Earlier, Cavani had once again scored the only goal in a 1-1 draw, this time in Amsterdam against Champions League rivals Ajax. Also in France, Diego Rolán scored his 4th goal in 6 games in a 2-1 win that allows Bordeaux to stay even in points with Marseille (they are in second place because of a slightly worse goal differential). Other scorers this weekend included Maxi “el Mono” Pereira for Portuguese powerhouse Benfica, and Gonzalo “el Chori” Castro for Spanish side Real Sociedad (look, I warned you about the nicknames already).
On this side of the Atlantic, the Copa Sudamericana is in full swing, and the good news continues: both surviving Uruguayan participants, Peñarol and River (Danubio and Rentistas fell in the first round), suffered setbacks in their second round games. Wait, how is that good news? Welcome to CONMEBOL. See, Nacional ended last year second in the annual table, which means they took the last Uruguayan spot in the Libertadores Cup, behind finalists Danubio and Wanderers. However, CONMEBOL rules state that if a team wins the second-tier Sudamericana, they automatically qualify for that year’s Libertadores, but they don’t get their own spot (because that would make sense). The winning team replaces the lowest-ranked team from their own country. So if a Uruguayan team wins the Sudamericana, they take Nacional’s spot in the Libertadores, ending a 19 year participation streak for the Tricolores. Danubio didn’t count, because they were already qualified as Uruguayan champions; Rentistas is already out; the only threats are the two surviving teams, although they may not remain so for long. Peñarol tied at home against Colombian side Deportivo Cali, which means that they must either win on the road this week, a tall order, or tie by a score of 2-2 or higher. Either way it’s not looking good for the Aurinegros. River lost to Ecuadorian team Emelec 2-1, but they’re coming home for the return leg, so they’re a little bit more hopeful. El Bolso will unfortunately be rooting against both teams, thanks to CONMEBOL’s crappy planning.
Before we go, don’t think I forgot your Pasión Pasión video of the week:
That’s all for this week, fans. See you next time!
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- The Charrúa Report: Nico and the Sounders - December 14, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: King of the Single Rounders - December 12, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: Senseless - December 6, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: The Bum’s Rush - November 28, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: A Bump in the Road - November 16, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: Is It Priceline Time? - November 12, 2016
- The Charrúa Report: Closer to Fine - October 13, 2016