Penarol was one of the seven clubs in the inaugural Copa Libertadores in 1960 and it also had the distinction of winning the first edition. They successfully repeated as champions the following year. In 1963 the Uruguayan side came across a sublime Santos side led by Pele in the finals and waged a series of classics, losing the first leg at home and then rebounding on the road to force a playoff which they lost 0-3.
Today’s match never rose to any great height. If one was looking for a fluid match with a swirl of dazzling skills then by those standards it was disappointing and frankly pedestrian.
The long ball was used frequently by both sides and the finishing was poor. Neymar showed bursts of his undoubted skill but otherwise was effectively marshaled by a robust Penarol defense. Sebastian Sosa the Penarol custodian was his team’s saviour on a couple of occasions saving Alex Sandro’s efforts. On the other end Penarol had a great chance but Dario Rodriguez tamely lobbed the ball over goal.
The Uruguayan side pressed much harder in the second half desperately seeking that important goal that would put pressure on Santos in the second leg. The introduction of Fabian Estanyoff put some zip in the attack and the industrious Alejandro Martinuccio continued to be a threat. It appeared they had the goal when Diego Alonso slid the ball in from Antonio Pacheco’s cross but it was declared offside.
The replay showed it was a correct call and the linesman was a brave man for sticking to his first instinct. A marginal decision which immediately brought on the wrath of Diego Aguirre and the Centenario crowd already on edge.
Santos will feel happy to take a scoreless draw back to Brazil where they should also have the services of Paulo Henrique Ganso in time for the second leg. They’re clearly the more sophisticated side but Penarol in this tournament have shown true grit and a penchant for coming up with big goals. As Jonathan Wilson reminds us they beat Internacional on the road.