By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Wednesday, September 13th, one of Rio’s big four football (soccer) clubs, Botafogo, began the first leg of the 2017 Copa Libertadores quarter-finals against fellow Brazilian club, Grêmio at Nilton Santos Stadium. It was a physical, back-and-forth battle that saw the clubs’ contrasting styles cancel each other out leading to the inevitable 0-0 draw.
Organized by CONMEBOL (South American Football Confederation), the Copa Libertadores features the best football clubs in South America and is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious football tournaments in the world.
Botafogo entered yesterday’s match on a two-game win streak, including a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Flamengo (September 10th) in the Campeonato Brasileiro (Brasileirão), Série A. That win, the club’s first over its heated rivals in over two years, propelled the Fogão close to G6 territory and entry into the second round of next year’s Copa Libertadores.
Meanwhile, despite hovering close to the top of the Brasileirão table all year, Grêmio would be without the services of several key players last night, including star striker Luan and defensive leader Geromel.
Despite the setbacks, the first half saw Grêmio come out of the gate showing a lot of ball movement and controlling ball possession. Botafogo, on its heels most of the period, stayed compact and showed good effort to thwart any serious Grêmio threat.
A great save from Botafogo keeper Gatito on Arthur, who beat three players before launching a rocket from the edge of the goal area, ensured a 0-0 first period.
The stalemate continued in the second half with Grêmio continuing to show impressive passing while Botafogo dominated on the counterattacks.
Grêmio looked to have a sure goal at the 33rd minute of the second period when Fernandinho kicked what appeared to be a winner past Gatito. But, Gatito’s teammate Carli was well-positioned in the net to knock the ball out with a fantastic header.
That would be the last serious threat for either club and after three minutes of stoppage time, the game would end 0-0.
The two clubs will now meet again in Porto Alegre for the second leg of their quarterfinal matchup on September 20th to decide who will move on to the tournament semis.
Botafogo and Grêmio are two of three Brazilian teams remaining among the eight teams left in the 2017 Copa Libertadores. The third Brazilian club, Santos, drew 1-1 with Ecuadorian club Barcelona SC in the night’s other quarterfinal match.