Boca scrape through in Copa; Pele & Diego in spat shock

River fans call Boca 'swines'. Last night they became lucky swines, qualifying for the last 16 of Latin America's holy grail: the Copa Libertadores.

They went into the game needing a five-goal win over Venezuelan whipping-boys Maracaibo to assure their place in the knock-out stages. They could only scrape three, despite Anfield refugee Gabriel Paletta opening the scoring in the ninth minute.

But, as is often the case, football is part-mathematics, part good fortune: Chilean outfit Colo Colo could only draw at home to Mexican side Atlas, meaning Boca squeaked through at the Chileans' expense on goal difference, along with table-topping Atlas.

As word of the Santiago stalemate got around La Bombonera, fireworks were lit in the stands, while on the pitch Juan Roman Riquelme started singing and doing a Nobby Stiles jig. The onlooking Diego Maradona took off his top and swirled it over his head. In short everybody reacted as if they'd won the competition, perhaps because they'd experienced something many other fans enjoy more than anything else: the lucky escape from humiliation.

Jesus Datolo and Riquelme's goals beefed up the scoreline but it was a far from promising game from an erratic Boca side. They were the only Argentine team who struggled: although Arsenal had left themselves too much to do in Group 8 after three defeats in the first four games, River Plate topped a strong Group 5 while San Lorenzo got through Group 1 Lanus and Estudiantes had Group 2 sewn up last week.

Colo Colo draw whips Diego up into a frenzy 

Pelé on Maradona's doping

As the newly-thin (again) God watched from his Bombonera box, shirt off, hanging from the rafters, the Brazilian God was wondering how come, if other Olympians have their medals taken off them for doping scandals, Diego had hung on to his?

A fair enough point, perhaps, but one that made angry headlines in a fiercely loyal Argentina. He also criticised that goal by arguing "He was a great player, but you just can't hit a ball with your hand, pretending it was your head."

This one could run and run. Oh, it already has...

Topics