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Copa Libertadores Report: Jan 31

January 31, 2012 By Gregory Sica
Paraguay's Libertad and Arsenal de Sarandi of Argentina cruise into the group stage of the 2012 Copa Libertadores after winning their respective preliminary play-offs.
Libertad of Paraguay and Arsenal de Sarandi of Argentina progressed to the group stage of the 2012 Copa Libertadores, after defeating El Nacional of Ecuador and Sport Huancayo of Peru, respectively, on Tuesday.

Having lost 1-0 to El Nacional in Quito last week, Jorge Burruchaga's Libertad completely turned around the tie by thrashing The Ecuadorians 4-1 in a extremely one-sided affair in Asuncion, to qualify for the second round of the competition for the tenth successive year and their 13th time in total.

Meanwhile, Gustavo Alfaro's Arsenal advanced to the group stage of the competition for only the second time in their history despite a 1-1 draw with hosts Sport Huancayo. The Argentines struggled to adapt themselves to the 3,200-metre altitude, but nevertheless made their 3-0 win from the first leg count.

Libertad thrashed El Nacional 4-1 to cruise into the group stage of the competition, where they will participate in Group 5, along with Alianza Lima of Peru, Vasco da Gama of Brazil and Nacional of Uruguay.

The Paraguayans put on a dominant display, winning the game courtesy of goals from Pablo Velazquez, Jose Ariel Nunez, Rodolfo Gamarra and Luciano Civelli. While Pool Minda scored for the visitors.

El Nacional had won the first leg of the tie 1-0 in Quito last week, but they couldn't match Libertad's domination of the return leg.

Velazquez opened the scoring for Libertad as early as in the 1st minute when he met a Nunez ball with a powerful finish, but El Nacional, who are coached by Mario Saralegui, drew level in the 12th minute when Minda fired a left-footed shot past Libertad goalkeeper Rodrigo Munoz.

But Nunez put the Paraguayans back into the lead in the 29th minute, when he took advantage of a lapse of concentration from the visiting defence to slot home.

Five minutes later Gamarra added Libertad's third goal, to the joy of Argentine coach Jorge Burruchaga and the home fans in the stadium.

El Nacional were reduced to ten-men in the 87th minute with Jose Madrid's sending off, and Civelli took advantage of the numerical advantage to add Libertad's fourth goal of the night after a quick counter-attack in the third minute of stoppage-time.

Arsenal de Sarandi gained entry into the group stage of the continental competition, after forcing a 1-1 draw with Sport Huancayo. The Argentine club had thrashed the Peruvians 3-0 in the first leg of the tie in Avellaneda last week.

Despite being outplayed for large periods in the 3,200-metre altitude, veteran striker Sergio Ibarra sent Sport Huancayo into the break with a slender lead after scoring on the stroke of half-time.

Motivated by the goal, the Peruvians pushed to the attack at every opportunity in the second half, but although they created numerous goal-scoring chances, they were continually kept out by Arsenal goalkeeper Cristian Campestrini, who made a number of good saves.

Ibarra was clearly the most dangerous of the Huancayo attackers, and he almost doubled his team's lead in the 81st minute, when his fine header hit the crossbar.

However, two minutes later substitute Luciano Leguizamon silenced the home crowd with Arsenal's late equaliser to send the Argentines into the following stage of the competition.

Arsenal will take place in Group 4 of the Copa Libertadores, along with fellow Argentines Boca Juniors, Fluminense of Brazil and Zamora of Venezuela.

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