Fluminense and Internacional starred in an electrifying match in the first leg of the Copa Libertadores semifinals. Join us as we recap this thrilling game.
Image: MAILSON SANTANA/FLUMINENSE FC
The Match Between Fluminense and Inter
On Wednesday night, Fluminense and Internacional played a fantastic match in the first leg of the Copa Libertadores semifinals.
The Tricolor Carioca fielded a lineup featuring Fábio, Samuel Xavier, Felipe Melo, Nino, and Marcelo in defense. André and Ganso were in midfield, with Arias and Keno on the wings, and John Kennedy and Cano up front.
Internacional started with Rochet in goal, Hugo Mallo, Vitão, Mercado, and Renê in defense, Johnny and Aranguiz in midfield, Maurício and Alan Patrick in the attacking midfield positions, and Wanderson and Enner Valencia as the forwards.
For this match, Internacional’s coach, Chacho Coudet, replaced the full-back Bustos with Hugo Mallo to provide more defensive solidity and cope with Keno’s attacking threat.
Fernando Diniz’s innovation in the lineup was the positioning of Paulo Henrique Ganso, who played almost like a second defensive midfielder alongside André.
As mentioned, the game was frenetic.
Just 5 minutes in, Maurício received the ball on the edge of the box, controlled it while turning toward the goal, and took a well-placed shot that narrowly missed the post.
Only two minutes later, Flu responded. Despite the inclusion of Hugo Mallo for defensive purposes, Keno’s pace was unstoppable. He started his run from midfield, got past the full-back, and unleashed a cross-shot. Rochet made an incredible save, tipping it over for a corner.
At the 10th minute, Renê made a crucial error, getting dispossessed by Arias near the defensive line. With the defense completely disorganized, the Colombian midfielder surged forward, passed to John Kennedy, who set up Cano. The striker took a first-time shot that left Rochet with no chance. Fluminense 1-0 Internacional.
The game’s intensity didn’t wane. Once again, Keno, this time against Hugo Mallo, combined with Cano and fired a cross-shot. Rochet once again made an incredible save, displaying futsal-style reflexes.
Internacional displayed great courage and didn’t abandon their playing style, even with the pressure of a packed Maracanã.
Enner Valencia started winning the physical battle against Fluminense’s defense, finding the space to set up Alan Patrick one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but the midfielder’s left-footed shot lacked power and was easily saved by Fábio.
In another duel, Enner Valencia got the better of the situation, charging forward with the ball at his feet. Samuel Xavier stopped the play with a tactical foul, earning a yellow card.
Shortly after, a similar situation occurred. Valencia managed to control a long ball played from the backline by Internacional. As he was about to bring it under control, Samuel Xavier slid in with a challenge, catching the center-forward’s boot with his tackle. The match referee, Dario Herrera, signaled the foul and correctly showed Samuel Xavier a second yellow card, consequently sending off the full-back in the 45th minute.
Internacional made excellent use of their numerical advantage, especially in the first half. They applied strong pressure and, in a beautiful cross from Renê, Hugo Mallo arrived unexpectedly and headed the ball into the net.
The assistant initially flagged for offside, but with the use of VAR, the goal was validated.
As a result, Internacional headed into the halftime break with a morale boost and returned to the field in the same fashion.
The pressure was intense, especially with quick passing combinations at the edge of the box until finding the free wingers or full-backs to deliver crosses.
That’s how Hugo Mallo delivered a cross into the box that found Mercado’s head. The defender headed it into the bottom corner, but VAR determined that the ball had touched Mercado’s hand after his header, and the goal was disallowed.
At this moment, Fluminense’s fans went wild, providing even more encouragement to their team.
Despite the disallowed goal, Internacional did not lose heart and continued to press.
Therefore, at the 64th minute, Renê passed to Maurício, who played a pass at the edge of the box. Enner Valencia attempted to control it, but the ball went under his foot, landing perfectly for Alan Patrick. The number 10 for Internacional saw Marcelo closing in for the tackle, so he executed a beautiful body feint. The ball shifted to his right foot, and he unleashed a powerful shot into the top corner, scoring a fantastic goal. Internacional took the lead.
After the goal, some of Internacional’s key players, such as Aranguiz, Maurício, and Alan Patrick, showed signs of fatigue due to their high-intensity pressing. As a result, Coudet made substitutions, bringing on Lucca, Dalbert, and Bruno Henrique, hoping these players could maintain the tempo of the starting lineup.
However, this wasn’t the case. The substitutions caused Internacional’s intensity to drop, and Tricolor Carioca took advantage, launching attacks whenever possible.
In this manner, Renê conceded a corner through a clumsy foul. On the set piece, Arias delivered the ball, and Nino rose unmarked. The ball found Cano in the six-yard box. The striker, with his instinct for goals, took a first-time shot and scored his second goal of the match (11th in the Libertadores, making him the top scorer in the competition). This leveled the match that had seemed lost, with the equalizer coming in the 78th minute.
And so, the first chapter of this thrilling encounter came to an end.
Internacional managed to secure a good result away from home but left with a bitter taste, as they made effective use of their numerical advantage but conceded the equalizer late in the game.
Fluminense heads to the Beira-Rio with confidence, but they are aware of the challenges they will face in Porto Alegre.
Image: MAILSON SANTANA/FLUMINENSE FC
The Tactical Duel Between Diniz and Coudet
The described match was a true tactical duel between two outstanding coaches.
Filled with physical intensity, both teams played according to their coaches’ wishes, which is a rare sight.
Diniz knew the importance of establishing a good advantage at home. Therefore, he set up the team in a vertical manner, realizing that to protect their defense, they needed to prevent Internacional’s midfielders from controlling the ball in midfield.
As a result, Fluminense pressed Internacional’s build-up play whenever possible. This is how they constructed both of their goals, the first with Arias’ interception on Renê and the second after a successful tackle that had Renê as the victim, leading to the corner.
Image: André Durão
On the other hand, Chacho Coudet identified two glaring weaknesses in the opponent. The first was the lack of protection in front of the box, with André being the sole defensive midfielder. Diniz attempted to mitigate this deficiency by dropping Ganso deeper, but it didn’t yield the desired effect.
Therefore, Coudet positioned Alan Patrick and Enner Valencia close to the box. Enner was capable of controlling or heading long passes, and Alan received the balls quickly and directly from Johnny and Aranguiz in midfield.
Maurício and Wanderson mirrored Arias and Keno, attracting their markers and leaving Fluminense’s midfield exposed.
The second weakness was the physical superiority of Internacional’s attackers over Felipe Melo. Whether it was the speed of Wanderson and Maurício or the physical battles with Enner Valencia, the Ecuadorian won all of them.
The expectation is that the second leg will be as thrilling as the first, and there is no clear favorite to advance to the final.
The only downside was Fernando Diniz’s criticism of the refereeing at the end of the match. From a criterion perspective, referee Dario Herrera was spot on. Both of Samuel Xavier’s fouls were clear yellow card offenses, one to stop a counter-attack and the other a sliding tackle with a raised leg. There is nothing more to be said.
Who do you think will advance?
Image: Buda Mendes/Getty Images / Esporte News Mundo
Written by Vitor F L Miller.