On Wednesday, the Sharks played the first leg of the Aguila League semifinals, and they tied with Atletico Nacional, 1-1. The goals scorers were Daniel Bocanegra with the visiting team, who put one in just 18 minutes into the first half, and Vladimir Hernandez, who scored at the 74 minute mark for the home team. The Semifinals will continue this Saturday in Medellin at 3 pm.
Junior began Wednesday’s match in an awful condition. The team suffered from a lack of ideas and offensive spirit, and overall they seemed tired during the entire first half. Nacional on the other hand, was in extraordinary physical form, and using counter attack tactics, held the dominant role across the whole game. They scored one goal and even wasted several chances to expand their lead.
In the second half, the Sharks improved a little and showed a slightly better face for the 35,000 spectators present at Metropolitano stadium. The changes made by the coach, although as usual very late, were effective in the team’s performance, leading to the first scoring equalizer, and later improving their offensive game for better results that in the end weren’t possible.
This outcome is clearly not enough to even imagine that Barranquilla will have its team in the finals. The incredible match in Bogotá that led Junior to the semi-finals proved that no lead is too big that it can’t be surmounted – and we can’t be making assumptions no matter how well Rojiblanco does up front. If the Sharks have any desire to get to the last round, they’ll need to play a smart game in Medellin, with solid tactics and leadership. Last Sunday’s game during the quarterfinals match against Millonarios was a roller-coaster of emotions; we don’t need a repeat performance of that. If they learned anything from that match, they won’t rush to attack their rivals, but instead, they’ll wait like a snake and strike precisely to build a game that maybe can give us a historic comeback.
Junior and Nacional have a huge story of comebacks between them. These two teams played finals in 2004, 2014, and 2015, defining all of them through penalty shootouts, and coincidentally, as in this time, with the final match held in Antioquia. In 2004, the championship was for the Barranquilleros, who won the first leg 3-0 at home, and later lost 5-2 in Medellín, scoring that second goal just minutes before handing the title to the green team. Ten years later, in 2014, Junior also got a win on home soil (1-0), but this time on the second leg, and the epic equalizer was scored by Nacional, who set the definitive 2-1 that tied the series, and finally let them get the cup with eleven-meter shots. In last year’s finale, Junior kept their heads down and made it to Antioquia with a 2-1 lead, but unfortunately, their rivals overcame that advantage in the first minute of the second leg game, and the Paisas went on to tie the series and then again took the title to Medellin with penalties.
Even this year, during the regular season game, Junior and Nacional had a full comeback tie in Metropolitano stadium. First, the visitors took the lead 0-1. Then after working very hard, the home team got a goal to match up the score for the second half, but suddenly, just a couple minutes after, thanks to a penalty, the greens got back into the lead. Then, just minutes before the final whistle; Junior not only managed to tie the match again but also got the lead thanks to a fantastic free kick goal, 3-2 and a perfect ending for the locals. However, this wasn’t it – on the next play they couldn’t defend a counterattack and conceded the last-minute equalizer, 3-3, and the comeback story between these two squads happened once more.
So as recent history suggests, to check into the finals, Junior will have to break out their good luck charms for this upcoming game in Medellin. Maybe the fact that this time they don’t have a global advantage, perhaps they’ll put more focus on their play, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll secure a clean sheet, without the usual fan heart attacks, and grab a qualification for the next round. If so, they’ll be facing the winner of the other semifinal, Cortuluá vs. DIM, who will be playing their first leg, tonight (Thursday) in Valle, and their second on Sunday, also in Medellín.