Deportivo Cali could not gain an advantage at home against Melgar in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Copa Sudamericana. They tied 0-0 in Palmaseca.
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The Peruvian team pressed their Colombian rival throughout the game, which ended with nine players, after two expulsions in the final minutes. The second leg will be played next Wednesday at the Melgar redoubt, the Monumental stadium in the Andean city of Arequipa, at 2,300 meters above sea level.
The winner of this key will be measured in the quarterfinals against the winner of the duel between Inter de Porto Alegre from Brazil and the Chilean Colo Colo. The Peruvian side pressed from the start of the match, undaunted by their status as visitors.
The first risky play came in the 23rd minute when Peruvian striker Luis Iberico received the ball in the rival area and finished off, but his shot went wide slightly deviated. In the 30th minute, Iberico headed in front of Guillermo de Amores' goal, after an assist from the left by Paolo Reyna, but the ball went over the crossbar.
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Four minutes later, Cali, led by Venezuelan Rafael Dudamel, had their best chance to score when Harold Mosquera kicked a Chilean kick inside the Peruvian area, but the ball went wide.
In the second half Cali came out with a more aggressive attitude, but little by little Melgar took back the initiative and Iberico caused several headaches for goalkeeper De Amores. In the 60th minute, midfielder Alexis Arias assisted Iberico, who escaped between two Cali defenders, eluded goalkeeper De Amores and finished almost without an angle.
The ball hit the post and went out of the field, but the play was annulled because the Peruvian attacker was ahead. Ten minutes later Iberico eluded a defender and launched a cross from the left. Cristián Bordacahar finished off the ball in front of the goal, but it went slightly wide. In the final minutes, the Cali players lost their patience and the Colombian team finished with nine players after the expulsion of Carlos Lucumi (85) and Daniel Luna (88) for attacks on rivals.
For Melgar, who takes a valuable point from Cali, this series marks the farewell of Argentine coach Néstor Lorenzo, who will assume the leadership of the Colombian team after the second leg of the round of 16. Lorenzo arrived at the Arequipa team at the end of 2020 for his first experience as technical director.
A year and a half later they have Melgar in the round of 16 of a continental tournament and a leader in the Peruvian Apertura, in which it is enough for them to draw on Sunday to lift the title.
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