Highlights: Copa Sudamericana 2010, Semi-finals

Goiás vs Palmeiras

On the evening of Sunday 21 November Goiás were relegated to the Brazilian 2nd division after a 7 minute hat-trick from Neymar then on Wednesday 24 November they overturned a 0-1 first leg deficit with a 1-2 away win against Palmeiras to qualify for the final of Copa Sudamericana 2010. Some commentators would jape that this kind of thing could only happen in the crazy world of South American football, however a closer look at the Brazilian qualification process for international tournaments and the disproportionate amount of places that they are awarded reveals that a Brazilian team can qualify for Copa Sudamericana with a 13th or 14th place finish. Last season Vitória qualified for Copa Sudamericana by finishing only 3 points above the relegation places.Goiás didn't finish that low in the table, but they were still closer to the relegation zone than the championship leaders.

Luis Felipe Scolari's Palmeiras side had one foot in the Copa Sudamericana final after a controversial 0-1 first leg away win against fellow Brazilians Goiás. The game was a rather turgid affair only enlivened by a magnificent "bombaso" of a goal from Marcos Assunção and some pitiful refereeing decisions. The first dreadful mistake was referee Evandro Rogério Román's decision to give a yellow card to the wrong player in the first half. Early in the 2nd half Marcos Assunção gave the away team the advantage with a blistering strike. At the very end of the game the match day officials let themselves down again disallowing a Goiás equaliser for offside, despite the fact that neither of the supposedly offside players touched the ball. After the game Goiás fans showed their displeasure by throwing stuff at Scolari, his reaction when he was hit in the head with a small radio was priceless.

The 2nd leg seemed to be going well for Scolari's team, Luan scored in the 34th minute to double their lead, however Goiás scored an equaliser in the last seconds of the first half to give themselves hope for the 2nd half. In the 83rd minute Emando scored for the away side to give them a famous 1-2 win and leave this 2nd division team only 2 games away from qualifying to play in the Copa Libertadores.

Liga de Quito vs Independiente

Independiente are through to their first continental final since 1995 after beating reigning champions Liga de Quito on away goals after a 4-4 draw on aggregate, a remarkable victory considering that they came back from 3-0 down after 62 minutes in the first leg.

In the first leg Independiente faced a tough trip to the Casa Blanca in Quito to face the tournament holders Liga de Quito, who are unbeaten at home in Copa Sudamericana since 2007, the last time they even failed to win was a 1-1 draw against Boca Juniors in October 2008. Despite losing the game 3-2 the Argentine side will be more than satisfied to have come back from 3-0 down to bag two vital away goals.

Liga de Quito's Uruguayan midfielder Juan Manuel Salguiro scored a wonderful goal to put the home side 1-0 up at the break. Things began to look desperate for the Argentine side when they conceded another two goals early in the second half. At 3-0 with more than an hour to play it seemed that a repeat of Liga's incredible 7-0 win in the home leg of the semi final in 2009 was more likely than what actually happened.

Within two minutes of going three goals behind, Néstor Silvera broke Liga's momentum a vital away goal for Independiente which was clearly scored from an offside position. Six minutes later Lucas Mareque scored a brilliant goal to make it 3-2. Liga came close to extending their lead on several occasions, they were denied by a brilliant double save from Independiente keeper Hilario Navarro who had an outstanding night despite shipping three goals.

The second leg was also an enjoyable game to watch, apart from the transmission failure that blacked out coverage across multiple networks for around ten minutes early in the first half. Facundo Parra gave Independiente the advantage after 26 minutes with a close range header but in the last seconds of the first half  Juan Manuel Salguiro scored another tremendous golazo to give the advantage back to the Ecuadorian side.

At the start of the second half Hernán Fredes scored Independiente's second goal after intercepting a dreadful attempted pass from Patricio Urrutia. They held on for the win despite pressure and good chances for Liga in the second half. The closest they came to scoring the goal they needed to win the tie was a shot from Enrique Gámez that beat Independiente goalkeeper and hero of the first leg Hilario Navarro only to hit the post.

The final whistle sparked delerious celebration amongst the Independiente fans, who now have the prospect of a final against Goiás to look forward to.

Goiás (Bra) 0-1 Palmeiras (Bra)
Palmeiras (Bra) 1-2 Goiás (Bra)
Winner: Goiás (on away goals)

LDU Quito (Ecu) 3-2 Independiente (Arg)
Independiente (Arg) 2-1 LDU Quito (Ecu)
Winner: Independiente (on away goals)

For more South American football highlights, including the Argentine & Brazilian leagues, the pick of the rest and other international tournaments:

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