Holders Santos face another daunting
trip to a La Paz to face Bolivar in the Libertadores Cup last 16
having secured their place as Group One winners on Thursday.
Santos, inspired by the talismanic Neymar, defeated The
Strongest 2-0 at home to exact revenge on the side who beat them
in the rarefied air of the Bolivian capital two months ago when
they began the defence of their title.
However, they must now return to La Paz's 3,600 metre
altitude in a first knockout round that also pits twice
champions Internacional against 2008 runners-up Fluminense in an
all-Brazilian tie next month.
Santos, three times South American champions, scored twice
in the final four minutes, Neymar laying on the first with a
cross to substitute striker Alan Kardec, whose header beat
goalkeeper Daniel Vaca.
Less than two minutes later, Neymar broke through the
defence to steer the ball past Vaca and secure Santos's meeting
with Bolivar, who will be at home for the first leg at Bolivia's
national Hernando Siles stadium in two weeks from now.
Internacional, champions in 2006 and 2010, qualified in
second place in the group despite a disappointing performance in
a 1-0 defeat away to Juan Aurich of Peru.
The Strongest needed to beat Santos to have any chance of
qualifying in Inter's place.
Panama striker Luis Tejada scored the only goal when he
headed Juan Aurich's winner after a quarter-of-an-hour in the
Peruvian champions' home town of Chiclayo.
Copa Sudamericana holders Universidad de Chile, who won
South America's equivalent to the Europa League in December,
beat Atletico Nacional to snatch top spot in Group Eight from
the Colombians and will meet Deportivo Quito of Ecuador.
In a high tempo clash between the top two teams in the
highest-scoring group at Chile's national stadium in Santiago,
Argentine winger Matias Rodriguez put "La U" ahead with low
drive from the edge of the box in the first half.
Striker Dorlan Pabon, the group stage's top scorer with
seven goals, equalised just past the hour with a rising shot
from the right but man-of-the-match Osvaldo Gonzalez restored
the Chileans' lead with a header five minutes later.
"We've shown that we've been improving with each match,"
said Gonzalez, whose side lost away to Atletico Nacional in
their opening group match before picking up 13 points from their
"Now the real Libertadores starts, with home and away
knockout ties which is totally different," he told Fox Sports.
Atletico Nacional go into the only clash between former
champions, the 1989 winners qualifying for a tie with Velez
Sarsfield of Argentina, who won the title in 1994.
Also among six former champions in the last 16 are Boca
Juniors (six titles), who face Union Espanola of Chile, with the
first leg at their Bombonera cauldron in Buenos Aires, and 1998
winners Vasco da Gama, who meet Lanus of Argentina.
Corinthians, one of Brazil's biggest clubs still looking to
win the continental title for a first time, face surprise
qualifiers Emelec of Ecuador and Paraguay's Libertad meet Cruz
Azul of Mexico.
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