MEDELLIN, Colombia – Libertad qualified for the group stage of the Copa Libertadores after beating Atletico Nacional on penalties at the Atanasio Girardot Stadium in Medellin on Thursday night.
The Paraguayans traveled to Colombia with a 1-0 goal lead from the first leg, which was wiped out in the 34th minute when Jeison Lucumi nodded in at the back post from Hernan Barcos’ lofted ball.
The goal was the least the home side deserved after pinning Libertad back for most of the opening period.
They did the most damage down the flanks, peppering the Paraguayans’ penalty area with crosses and shots that were narrowly off target.
Libertad was struggling to contain the Colombians, who were firmly in the ascendency as the half time break came, to the delight of the fervorous home support.
But the visitors came out rejuvenated, and immediately set about looking for the crucial away goal.
They somehow failed to score in the 51st minute when Atletico scrambled the ball off the line after Cougo’s low ball across the six yard box.
Antonio Bareiro was guilty of missing one of Libertad’s best chances in the 67th minute, when he failed to convert his back post header from five yards out.
Atletico Nacional were still pouring forward in search of a winner themselves, and almost found one when Palacios’ chipped the ball over the goalkeeper Jose Cuadrado from a tight angle but could only watch as it hit the inside of the post and bounced back across goal before being cleared by the Libertad defense.
With the tie level, the match went to penalties to decide which team would join Universidad Catolica, Gremio and Rosario Central in Group H.
Daniel Bocanegra stepped up first for the home team, and placed his shot wide of the right hand post, silencing the home crowd.
Nacional now needed Libertad to return the favor and miss the target, but the Paraguayans successfully converted all five of their attempts to seal their berth in the Copa Libertadores group stage.
The Paraguayans came out on top, converting all five of the attempts to Nacional’s four after Daniel Bocanegra’s miss on the opening penalty of the shootout.