Colo-Colo earned a vital and hard-fought 2-0 win over 10-man Atlas at El Monumental to give themselves a great chance of qualifying for the knockout stage of the Copa Libertadores.
Both teams went into the game level on three points and knew a win would go a long way in determining the final outcome of the group, with Santa Fe and Atletico Mineiro not due to play for a fortnight.
Atlas arrived at El Monumental with a very clear game plan and were well-organised throughout, making it difficult for Colo-Colo to break them down while always looking dangerous on the counterattack.
The Mexican side’s first chance inevitably came on the break after 11 minutes when Luis Caballero found Keno on the edge of the box. The Brazilian got the ball out of his feet but dragged his shot just wide of Justo Villar’s far post.
Colo-Colo’s first real opening came after thirty-two minutes after Jaime Valdes did brilliantly down the right to get away from his man and pick out Humberto Suazo in the box, but the striker was off balance as he hit his volley straight into Federico Vilar’s arms.
The home side then had Paraguayan goalkeeper Villar to thank for keeping them level as managed to turn a thunderous long-range drive from the ever-threatening Caballero behind for a corner.
Los Albos started the second half with a much greater intensity than they ended the first but struggled to break down the resolute Atlas defence – until the 68th minute. Bolivian referee Raul Orozco awarded Colo-Colo a penalty after Valdes was brought down attempting to get on the end of an Esteban Paredes cross following good work from Suazo.
Paredes confidently stepped up and drilled the penalty home for his ninth Copa Libertadores goal in a Colo-Colo shirt, sending Vilar the wrong way.
Nine minute before the end, Atlas’ task of earning a point became all the more difficult after Argentinian defender Walter Kanneman was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Paredes then sealed the three points in the final seconds of the ninety minutes, tapping home a square pass from Gonzalo Fierro into an empty net after a good through ball from substitute Claudio Baeza.
On a personal note, Paredes now has 10 Copa Libertadores goals for Colo-Colo and 93 in total, leaving him one behind captain Fierro. Next up for El Cacique is the return fixture in Mexico where they will have to start far more brightly than tonight if they are to have any hope of taking something from the game.