Following straight on from the Peruvians, the Bolivians were in game already.
So, what happened? This was one of those games that was utterly gripping from the off. I expected The Strongest to be the better team and they started off like a train. Petrolero, in green, really didn’t have an answer to the rapid and varied attacking of their vespine visitors and, even as early as twenty minutes in, it was a wonder The Strongest weren’t two or three goals up. Some balls played into the penalty area really deserved better finishing than they were offered, but here again the pitch was ropey at best.
It actually took them until the second half before they scored, though only just, as Petrolero had built up a bit of a head of steam themselves towards the end of the first period – for a goal to come so soon after half time it had a feeling of a slapdown; “Right – you’ll do what we say now, alright?” and it acted a little like that for a while.
Once again, though, The Strongest couldn’t exert any continued pressure on their hosts and bit by bit they forced their way back in. By the time Moreno equalised with about ten minutes to go it was deserved. That brought about a wonderful ding-dong affair. Petrolero could smell blood and as much as they were being pegged back, broke forward in number and at speed whenever they got the ball while The Strongest just shifted further and further forwards to press the home side’s defence. Meanwhile, any player in possession of the ball was in danger of being unceremoniously uprooted should he try do something with it, making it more spectacle than football.
In the end, with three minutes to go, a Petrolero player broke through the Strongest’s defensive line, which was sitting on half way, and surged towards goal. He zeroed in, a defender was trying to get back and the keeper came out. The defender, Marteli, produced one of the greatest professional fouls I’ve ever seen as he entered the box; taking man, ball, half the pitch but doing it so that it was a free kick rather than a penalty. He was in the bath before the red card came out. From the freekick, there was some lovely justice done.
Moreno strode up to take the freekick and bent it delightfully from the centre of the D to the bottom left corner. At least that’s how it looked. The replay showed it took a huge, huge deflection which, on balance, was only fair. It ended 2-1 to Petrolero – an excellent climax to an excellent game.
Entertainment Value? 8/10.