Two goals in the first 25 minutes were enough for Copa Libertadores winners Liga de Quito to book themselves a place in Sunday’s final.
In torrential rain at the Tokyo’s National Stadium, well-taken strikes from Claudio Bieler and Luis Bolanos gave the team from Ecuador the chance to become club champions of the world, but they were made to work against a passionate Pachuca side, who in truth, had more of the ball and created a greater number of chances.
The first goal came with the game barely four minutes old, with Bieler taking advantage of a fortunate rebound to steer the ball past Miguel Calero. The goal seemed to rock the Mexicans who started full of confidence following their fine comeback over Al Ahly.
Pachuca had a quick chance to level matters, when Jose Cardenas and Damian Alvarez combined well down the left, but despite Christian Gimenez and Bruno Marioni being well positioned, the ball failed to break for either and the danger was cleared.
Marioni was desperately unlucky not to equalize in the 19th minute. Francisco Torres’ corner was swung into the box with the Argentinian striker lurking in eight yards from goal at the near post. His acrobatic flying header merited a goal, but he was left frustrated as his effort was blocked.
Just five minutes later, the winners of the 2008 Copa Libertadores doubled their advantage – and what a goal it was! Julio Manzur gave away a free kick on the edge of the box after handling the ball and up stepped Bolanos to take the set piece.
The Liga de Quito players formed a wall directly in front of Pachuca’s, completely blocking the keeper’s line of sight. Bolanos curled the ball past both screens and into the top right corner.
Pachuca then found themselves in the same situation as Saturday, but could lightning strike twice. From the time of the second goal until the end of the match they certainly had the lion’s share of possession, but they were unable to make it count.
Alvarez blasted the ball at the keeper when well placed. Torres tested the keeper with a low shot and from the loose ball an under-pressure Cardenas headed wide with the goal at his mercy.
At the other end, Renan Calle’s 35-yard free kick looked to be dipping under the crossbar until Calero tipped the ball over. A 3-0 lead at half-time would have certainly flattered Edgardo Bauza’s side, but there was no doubt that they took their chances when it mattered.
The second half, in contrast, failed to offer as many goals, incident or drama as the first. Virtually all of the play took place in the Liga de Quito half and had it not been for some profligate finishing from Alvarez, Gimenez and Marioni, Pachuca might have found their was back into the game.
Arguably the best chance of a stop-start second 45 minutes came in added time when Liga de Quito’s Reinaldo Nava found himself with just the goalkeeper to beat and spooned the ball over the bar.
As a result, that miss did not matter. Liga de Quito booked their place in Sunday’s final while Pachuca have to lift themselves to take part in the match for third place.
Story and photo courtesy of FIFA Media. For more visit www.fifa.com