MATURIN, Venezuela – Brazilian club Gremio edged Venezuelan side Monagas 2-1 to book a berth in the knockout stage of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier club soccer tournament.
In a Group A match on Tuesday night at Monumental Stadium in this northeastern city, Monagas nearly jumped out to an early lead on a shot by Jhonder Cadiz that went just wide of the upright in the sixth minute.
A minute later, Javier Garcia had a chance on a header in the area that was off the mark.
But the defending champions then began taking control of the ball and that led to their best opportunity of the first half – a free kick by Cicero in the 33rd minute that clanked off the right post.
Monagas responded late in the half with a shot by defender Ismael Romero that Gremio net minder Marcelo Grohe did well to save.
In the second half, the visitors patiently waited for their chance to open the scoring and finally were rewarded in the 68th minute when Ramiro connected on a long-range rolling shot that managed to get past goalkeeper Alain Baroja, who appeared not to have picked up sight of the ball until it was too late.
Monagas nearly scored in the 80th minute on a shot by Cadiz inside the area off a cross by Oscar Gonzalez, but a Grohe save preserved the lead.
The action then heated up in second-half injury time when Monagas got the equalizer on an own goal by Walter Kannemann before Jailson converted a penalty try just before time expired.
Gremio (11 points) secured a spot in the tournament’s round of 16 with the win, although it has not yet clinched first place in Group A.
Paraguayan side Cerro Porteño is in second place in Group A with 10 points and also has booked a berth in the knockout stage, while Uruguay’s Defensor Sporting is in third with four points.
Monagas is in last with three points and out of contention for the Copa Libertadores knockout stage, but it is still in a battle with Defensor for a spot in the second stage of Copa Sudamericana, South America’s secondary club competition.