Deportivo Independiente Medellin rebounded from an early deficit to tie Junior 1-1 yesterday at Metropolitano Stadium in Barranquilla. Jorge Aguirre scored the goal for the locals and Juan Cabezas for the visitors.
The Rojiblancos stunned El Poderoso just nineteen minutes into the first half when Aguirre, the team’s top scorer in the playoffs, unleashed a sliding strike from inside the box that goalkeeper David Gonzalez just couldn’t stop. But DIM only needed 6 minutes to tie the game and after a cross ball from Arias, and a later shot by Castro to the top of the penalty area, both of which came in low and were well-saved by Junior’s defenders, Cabezas reacted first to convert the rebound.
What came next was a sensational group effort from DIM’s defense with Coach Alvarez managing to stop all the Sharks’ attempts to score by blocking all their roads to attack. Forced by these tactics, Coach Mendoza had to make offensive changes that were not effective at all. In the second half, Junior was more impulsive than anything else, and they were carried away by their necessity to obtain a positive result on home soil and ended up with no real ideas. Their only way to approach was to cross the ball to the middle of the box, but all those shots were rejected by Medellin’s defenders, who are all much taller than the Minions, as the local strikers are known.
The last half of the match was torture for all of the forty-five thousand fans at the stadium. They were astonished to see how their team simply wandered around aimlessly with the ball because they couldn’t get past the wall of Medellin players.
Once again, as in its first two games of the playoffs, Junior will need to strike for a win on the road that ultimately will give them the championship. This time, their goal is to repeat at least the game they played last Saturday, at the same stadium, but against DIM´s derby rival, Atletico Nacional. The key will be obtaining a clean sheet again, and playing with the same order they did before. If they do that and are just a bit more accurate when they shoot, the star will be resting in Barranquilla. If that doesn’t happen but at least they keep the parity, they’ll also have some advantage in the penalty shootout, because that’s practically how Junior always ends up defining the titles.
For next game, Coach Mendoza will most likely be missing two key players from his starting eleven. Center back Jorge Arias had to leave the pitch yesterday with a muscle strain and was replaced at halftime by Deivy Balanta, making his debut of the tournament. And later, the center forward, Roberto Ovelar, also had to be substituted in the second half because of muscular problems (again). The best choice to replace him is Edison Toloza, the striker who was recently separated from the roster after having had an intense argument with the Coach during the semifinals, but later reunited for the final. Also, Luis Carlos Arias, DIM’s midfielder, suffered an ankle sprain and will be a doubt for the Reds starting squad in their other final.
Despite the poor result for the Barranquilleros, all the emotion is pent up and ready for the second game to be played at Atanasio Girardot Stadium in Medellin on Sunday at six pm. The Sharks have proved before that no outcome is a safe warranty for their opponent. The series is still open for both teams, and until the final whistle, “La Paridera” (giving birth), as Juniors fans call the way their team makes them suffer, will keep hunting them.