Santos, Penarol play to scoreless draw
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay -- Santos and Penarol played out a scoreless draw Wednesday in the first-leg of the Copa Libertadores final, leaving Santos with a slight advantage going into next week's decider at home in Brazil.
Santos, which is seeking its third title in Latin America's top club competition, had clearer chances led by 19-year-old forward Neymar. But Penarol keeper Sebastian Sosa kept his club alive with key saves throughout the match.
"Logically, playing here we needed to make a difference" Sosa said. "But this team has got results away from home before. It's still wide open."
Santos' Bruno Aguiar also said the final was there for the taking.
"It was an even match," Aguiar said. "Now we'll rest and try to figure out how to win it."
Penarol is playing for its sixth Libertadores title and was greeted by 50,000 vocal fans, many of whom shot off fireworks and flares to welcome the Uruguay club. Uruguay and Atletico Madrid star Diego Forlan was among the throng in the stands cheering on Penarol.
Diego Martin Alonso seemed to have scored the winner for Penarol in the 86th when he chipped in a close-in shot, but was ruled offside. Television replays shows the decision was correct, with Penarol coach Diego Aguirre putting up only a short protest.
The match started with intensity from both sides, but it got an extra edge in the 19th minute when Neymar was given a yellow card for diving. That seemed to spark Santos, with Alex Sandro producing two threatening shots in the 20th and 25th, both saved by Sosa.
The clubs had trouble on a slick pitch soaked by early rain. Penarol played a more physical game, trying to limit Neymar and Santos, which had more possession throughout the match.
Penarol's best two chances in the first half came in the final seconds. Guillermo Rodriquez's close-in header was saved in the 44th by keeper Rafael. Dario Rodriguez missed just seconds later with another short-range shot that went just over the crossbar.
Sosa opened the second half with a sprawling save of a Ze Eduardo attempt to keep Penarol in the match.
The Brazilians maintained the majority of possession in the second half, with Penarol seeming to tire on the heavy pitch at Centenario stadium in the Uruguay capital.
Santos almost broke through in the 72nd minute, but Eduardo's bouncing header went just wide of the far post. Penarol had chances a minute later with Dario Rodriguez and Fabian Estoyanoff coming close.
Santos and Penarol won the first four Copa Libertadores titles, Penarol in 1960 and '61 and Pele-led Santos in '62 and '63. Penarol trails only Argentina's Independiente with seven titles and Boca Juniors with six.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press