Boca Juniors qualified for the Copa Libertadores semi finals after beating Racing Club 4-1 in a penalty shoot out after the game ended in a 0-0 draw. Goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the hero of the night for the Xeneize by saving two kicks, the key decisive factor in helping break the parity between the two remaining Argentine teams left in the competition.
After coming up empty handed despite being the best team in the first leg of the series played at La Bombonera that also ended 0-0, Boca looked less daring away at Avellaneda. Racing came out swinging and controlled the game early on, nearly scoring twice before half-time, while Boca stood firm in defense.
In the second half, Racing’s physically demanding high-pressing style cost them as players started to wear down. This allowed Boca to gain more ball possession and create some chances but without much luck.
The game suffered due to injuries of star players on both teams. Colombian striker Roger Martínez made his return for Racing, but looked far from his best form and had no chance to influence the game. Boca youngster Valentín Barco, who had been one of the best players in the first leg, didn’t play despite being named as part of the squad.
As the end drew closer, fatigue and physical exhaustion meant both teams looked happy to settle things with a penalty shootout. In almost a repeat plotline from the game against Nacional de Uruguay in the previous round, Boca goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the hero once again. He saved shots from Gonzalo Piovi and Leonardo Sigali to send Boca to the Libertadores semi finals, three years after their last appearance at that stage.
“I have mixed feelings about this result,” said Romero after the game. The 36-year-old, who came up through the Racing Club youth ranks and is a fan of the club, suffered the abuse of the La Academia fans throughout the game. “On one hand, I am very happy for what we achieved, but on the other I don’t like it when people insult me, because I am a Racing fan and I love the club.”
Boca’s qualification sets a new precedent, as no team before had ever reached the semis after failing to win any of its knockout stage games in regulation time. Before this tie, the Xeneizes also needed a penalty shootout to overcome Nacional from Uruguay, when they also tied 0-0 away and 2-2 at home in the round of 16. Now, the team coached by Jorge Almirón must wait until the end of September to face Brazilian team Palmeiras, who beat Colombia’s Deportivo Pereira.