RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian club Flamengo advanced to the knockout stage of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier club soccer competition, with a 2-0 victory over Ecuadorian side Emelec in Group D action.
Flamengo controlled the action from the outset Wednesday night at Maracana Stadium, although the Ecuadorian club also found spaces to counter-attack, leading to opportunities for both teams.
Juan nearly scored on a header in the 22nd minute for Flamengo, but Emelec goalkeeper Esteban Dreer managed to get a hand on the ball and send it bouncing off the crossbar.
The central defender later had another good chance to score off a free kick in the 42nd minute, but he sent his running header wide of the left upright.
Emelec’s best opportunity in the first half came when Joao Rojas made a run down the right side in the eighth minute and sent the ball into the area.
Flamengo goalkeeper Diego Alves was unable to intercept the pass, but Ayrton Preciado failed to capitalize on the rebound.
Hungry for a goal, the large crowd of 40,390 fans erupted in the 47th minute when Flamengo opened the scoring after a ragged play in which Dreer made a foot save but then fell on his back and was unable to react to Ribeiro’s shot into the upper part of the goal.
Emelec tried to fight back and nearly scored in the 84th minute on a play in which goalkeeper Diego Alves was outmaneuvered, but neither Preciado nor substitute Jefferson Montero was able to capitalize.
The visitors put themselves in danger with several fouls near the area, the last of which led to a goal on a free kick by Ribeiro in second-half injury time.
During the game, Flamengo fans held up signs protesting the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision Monday to extend star striker Paolo Guerrero’s suspension to 14 months.
The ruling impedes the player from competing in the World Cup for Pero; it also is very likely that Flamengo will not renew his contract, which expires in August.
Guerrero, 34, was originally suspended for a year after a routine doping test in October 2017 detected a cocaine metabolite, but FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, subsequently reduced the penalty to six months and he played three games for Flamengo earlier this month after the ban expired.
With the win on Wednesday night, Flamengo (nine points) has assured itself of a spot in the Copa Libertadores round of 16 with one group-stage game remaining.
Argentine club River Plate leads the group with 11 points, while Emelec has just one point and is out of contention for the knockout stage.