By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Wednesday, February 8th, Rio’s Botafogo football (soccer) club traveled to Santiago, Chile to play Chilean club Colo-Colo in the second leg of the home-away series in the qualifying stage of the 2017 Copa Libertadores tournament.
In a tight defensive battle, Botafogo held on to the 1-1 draw securing a place in the third qualifying round of the tournament.
Thanks to that victory, Botafogo headed into last night’s game in Santiago with a huge advantage, having to either draw or at a minimum, not lose by more than a goal differential to advance in the qualifiers.
Despite the advantage, Botafogo fans were given a scare late Wednesday when, at the last minute, coach Jair Ventura announced that midfielder Camilo would miss the pivotal match due to a right thigh injury.
Those fears would only be made worse when, only three minutes into the game, Colo-Colo’s Fernandez took a shot that ricocheted off the head of Botafogo’s Émerson Silva to find the back of the net for a goal against, giving Colo-Colo a 1-0 lead.
Soon after giving up the first goal, Botafogo was on the attack looking to draw even. But a couple of clutch saves from Colo-Colo keeper Justo Villar on Victor Luis and Walter Montillo kept Botafogo off the scoreboard going into the halftime break.
The defense for both squads continued to dominate until the 81st minute. Off another great save from Villar, an opportunistic Rodrigo Pimpão scored on a rocket shot off the rebound, tying the game at 1-1.
Despite an extra seven minutes of stoppage time, Botafogo’s defense held strong securing the draw. The club now advances to the third and final qualifying round to play an opponent to be determined next Wednesday, February 15th.
The Copa Libertadores qualifying stages began on January 23rd and will continue until February 23rd. A total of nineteen teams are competing in the qualifying stages to decide four of the 32 spots in the group stage of the 2017 Copa Libertadores. Botafogo is one of two Brazilian teams in the qualifiers, along with Atlético Paranaense.
The two clubs hope to join the six other Brazilian clubs who are already in the group stage: Santos, Flamengo, Palmeiras, Atlético Mineiro, Chapecoense and Grêmio. Group stage play will begin on March 14, 2017.