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Fluminense Vs. Club América, 2011 Copa Libertadores: 3-2, Águilas Fall In A Wild Match

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The result was within their reach, but defensive frailties allowed Club América to succumb to a 3-2 loss in a back and forth game against Brazilian champions Fluminense. While América remains in second place in Group 3, the loss is a big blow, as the Águilas could have all but secured their advancement with a result in Brazil. Vicente Sánchez opened the scoring for the visitors before Gum equalized for the home side minutes later. Sánchez gave América the lead once more in the second half, but late goals from Araujo and Deco gave the win to the Tricolor.

For Fluminense, the win represents a lifeline for their severely faltering Copa Libertadores campaign. However, with trips away to Nacional and Argentinos Juniors, the team still has an extremely difficult task if it is to qualify for the knockout stages.

First Half

Fluminense kicked off looking to get forward, though often favored a more direct game, with América more content to retain possession. In keeping with that theme, Fluminense's Edwin Valencia went close from long range, his dipping shot going just over the bar on ten minutes. Five minutes later, though, it was América who was the beneficiary of some direct play, as a long looping ball into the Fluminense box saw Vicente Sánchez, along with Fluminense's Digão and goalkeeper Ricardo Berna converge on the ball. Digão collided with his goalkeeper, and Sánchez emerged to poke the ball home, sparking furious protests from the Fluminense players, who argued Sánchez had fouled Berna. Paraguayan referee had none of it, though, and allowed the goal.

It would only take six minutes for the home side to equalize, though. After a period of sustained pressure, Fluminense earned a free kick near the right touchline. Darío Conca delivered it straight to the penalty spot, where center back Gum arrived to meet the ball with before América goalkeeper Armando Navarrete could clear and the header easily bounced into the back of the net.

After two quick goals, both teams tightened up a bit, not opting to take any huge risks and conceded before halftime. The ball stayed in the center third of the pitch and there was little space to play. Fluminense had some decent looks playing slightly more up-tempo than América.

Gum failed to put his header on target after a surging run and cut back from Emerson, while Fred nearly connected with Emerson on a beautiful cross, only for Óscar Rojas to save the day for América with a fine clearance. Navarrete also made a brilliant stop on a dipping shot from Souza, getting down well to tip it around. América responded by opening up on the flanks, and Daniel Montenegro and a great chance to score just before the half, but he was denied by Berna.

Second Half

The most notable change after the break was América manager Carlos Reinoso's switch from a 4-3-3 to a more orthodox 4-4-2 formation, replacing Nicolás Olivera with Ángel Reyna. The change did not pay off immediately, though, as Fluminense controlled the run of play for the opening part of the half, forcing two great saves out of Navarrete from Fred and Emerson.

Fluminense continued to push, with América adopting a more conservative approach and trying to hit on the counter. The introductions of Deco and Rafael Moura into the game for the hosts did not initially offer any more creativity to the side and all of a sudden América pulled back ahead in the 71st minute. Sánchez broke for the byline and attempted a chipped cross, one that ending up sailing over Berna and into the goal before Digáno could clear.

With a loss meaning virtual elimination from the competition, Fluminense manager Enderson Moreira decided to go from broke, replacing left back Júlio César with forward Araújo. Moreira's changes looked more than justified in the final ten minutes, first when Deco found a wide open Araújo with a chipped cross. The forward made no mistake, slamming the ball home with a powerful header and punishing the seemingly sleeping América back line.

With the game deadlocked entering the final minutes, Fluminense once more got the break they needed in the 87th minute. Moura flicked on a long ball out of the back, which Juan Carlos Valenzuela apparently had covered, but when he headed it back to a teammate, Deco easily intercepted and poked the ball home to cap a fine performance off the bench.

América will travel back to Mexico ruing a defensive performance that was woeful at times, with poor decisions and missed marking assignments contributing to all three Fluminense goals. However, playing their final two group stages fixtures at home to Argentinos Juniors and at Nacional, the team can be reasonably confident of its chances of advancing.