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The Columbus School News Portal

The Discoverer

The Columbus School News Portal

The Discoverer

Atlético Nacional Keeps Hopes of Qualification Still Alive

America+Cali+Vs.+Atletico+Nacional+in+Pascual+Guerrero+Stadium+in+Cali%2C+Bolivar
America Cali Vs. Atletico Nacional in Pascual Guerrero Stadium in Cali, Bolivar

Atlético Nacional beat América de Cali 0-1 at América’s own Pascual Guerrero Stadium on November 30 and still has a remote chance of qualifying for the 2023-II Liga BetPlay semi-finals.

Nacional, with 10 men only, beat their rivals in a heated match. 14 minutes into the match, goalkeeper Kevin Mier was sent off for a handball outside of the penalty area. This implied that Nacional was a man down for 76 minutes of the game.

“For me, the whole team was the figurehead. The tactical work, the resilience, the attitude, the ability to support and help each other on the field is impressive, and the figurehead is all the players who participated in this valuable victory both on and off the field,” Jhon Jairo Bodmer, Atlético Nacional head coach, said.

With Mier out of the field, striker Jefferson Duque—playing his 300th game for Nacional—had to be substituted to accommodate goalkeeper Harlen Castillo ‘Chipi Chipi’, in place of the sent-off Mier. Castillo played a very good match, saving a shot from the ‘Mecha’ with his head.

“I can’t get carried away by emotions, we have to keep a cool head and review the characteristics of the players, but also review the accumulated load, and Jefferson had an accumulation, while Erick was more rested. But playing with a man less, leads us to think about the technical staff that had much more leg and more physical capacity to endure a complicated job,” Bodmer added.

The ‘Mecha’ struggled particularly in the defense and midfield, falling to a goal from Venezuelan striker Eric Ramírez in the early stages of the game.

“No coach makes decisions to make it difficult for his players to develop the game; we make decisions so that they can find solutions. We used Josen in the middle because we had three players at the back. At the end of the match, we put in a natural fullback, and that’s when we lost more control of the game. Josen gives us a lot, and if we put him in the middle, we would have had to take someone out of the middle,” Lucas González, América de Cali head coach, said.

After the drama-filled first half ended, the players and coaches—exhausted—went into their locker rooms. The ‘Verdolagas’ looked to extend their lead over América, who remained with hopes of coming back into the game to salvage a point in the competitive Group B of the tournament.

“We know that we can sustain ourselves by winning. We had a tough start, but we managed to create enthusiasm in our people, managers, and players. Now we have to live with this. I feel sad, personally, it is a failure not to reach the final and not to be higher in reclassification. There is a big difference between failing and being a failure and we have tried, ” González, said.

In the dying minutes of the game, after examination by the VAR (Video Assistant Referee), América forward Victor Ibarbo was sent off after hitting Robert Mejía in the face. This ended a disappointing campaign for the Vallecaucana outfit.

“We are a team that wants to try to win and to win you need to have the ball. That is not enough. We have to defend counterattacks, today we didn’t defend one and we lost the game and with the effective playing time, it’s normal that with our game when we dominate, they have a behavior where they prefer the ball to be dead. Today was an example of that. The opponent feels threatened and burns time, but that happens to all teams that have the ball. This generated frustration and we didn’t know how to handle it. I don’t like to talk about the referees, in the case of Portilla I think it was a very dangerous tackle that at least had to be reviewed, the same in the case of Víctor, who was sent off,” González concluded.