Robinho Lazaró had made a brilliant start to life in Peru. His Alianza Lima side wrapped up the Torneo Apertura in blistering style by battering the league favourites in the Final and progressed to the knockout stages of Copa Sudamericana. The challenge now was to take that form into the second half of the 2031 campaign, when it eventually began…
There was a near-three month gap between the end of Apertura in late May and the beginning of the Torneo Clausura in mid-August. That break saw teams across Europe, including the likes of Lazio, come in for star striker Fredy Méndez. However, they all made non-negotiable bids that were easy for Lazaró to reject and the forward didn’t get unhappy despite wanting to move to a better league.
The Copa Bicentenario, which Alianza won last season, preceded the second league stage. Promising striker Diego Vega made the most of a rare opportunity in a first-round game at Carlos Stein by scoring a club-record five and creating the other in a 6-0 battering. The reward for that was a Superclásico clash with Universitario, who scored their first shot with a 0.01 xG. Ridiculous! And they of course won 1-0.
A familiar old foe followed in the second round of South America’s second continental competition as Alianza faced Uruguayan side Penarol. A solid effort in Uruguay was, predictably, settled by star striker Fredy Méndez’s 23rd goal of the season. And a dominant home performance saw Alianza come from behind to win 2-1 with goals from centre-back Áron Sánchez and Jack Aliaga.
That teed up a quarter-final with huge favourites América Mineiro, who were 12th in Brazil. The away leg was first and started well with a Méndez goal but the hosts were much the better side and deservedly equalised after the break. But Lazaró was very happy with a 1-1 draw away from home. Alianza were much the better side in the second leg and made it count as Aliaga stroked home the winner from 20 yards after 72 minutes.
That took them into the semi-finals against fellow Peruvian side Sport Huancayo, who won the tournament in 2025 and against whom Alianza hadn’t won in five matches! That trend continued in a tight first leg at Huancayo. Alianza led through an Aaron Solano stunner, which was his first for the club, but the hosts went down the other end and equalised immediately. But a 1-1 away draw was a solid effort and, with away goals still active in South America, gave them something to hold onto.
Alianza dominated the second leg, having 12 shots and restricting Huancayo to not a single shot on target. But 0-0 was enough to send them through to the Final on away goals!
Liga 1 Torneo Clausura begins
The second half of the season began perfectly as a Carlo Valdivia perfect hat-trick gained revenge on Cienciano, who were the only team Alianza lost to in the Apertura stage and didn’t even manage a shot. Two more wins followed before a red card resulted in throwing away a lead at home to Sport Huancayo. But they responded by thumping Unión Comercio 4-1.
That gave them confidence to really kick on led by the sensational Méndez. The striker went on a ridiculous streak of scoring in nine successive league games, including hat-tricks in a 3-1 win at Melgar and a 3-0 home win over rivals Sport Boys.
That streak inspired a new club record of 18 games unbeaten, which included a big win at Juan Aurich then consecutive wins over bottom sides Atlético Grau and Carlos Stein, in which Méndez’s goal run ended.
That took Alianza into the final five ghames of the regular season with a six point lead at the top. Méndez got back to scoring ways in a 2-0 win at Alianza Atlético before a much-rested side got a 0-0 at rivals Sporting Cristal. Méndez then passed the 40-goal mark with a double in a dominant 2-0 win over supposed league favourites Binacional, who only mustered three shots. And that confirmed Alianza’s place in the end of season Champions Playoff.
The good form continued by battering Cantolao 4-0, in which Méndez and his replacement Vera both scored. And that set a new Liga 1 record of 21 games without defeat! While club legend Paulo Guerrero, who knows a thing or two about scoring goals, proclaimed the star striker as “Majestic Méndez.” The regular season finished off at sixth-place Alianza Universidad and they somehow lost 2-0 despite having all the chances and Méndez hitting the bar four times!
Nevertheless, Alianza finished top of the overall table on 61 points from 25 matches, only losing twice all season. They scored a league-high 59 goals and only conceded 18, which was bettered by boring Sporting Cristal’s 15!
Méndez unsurprisingly topped the goalscoring charts with 32 goals in 25 games – which was a mighty 18 more than anyone else! He also had the best average rating of 8.21, while five of the top six ratings were Alianza players!, and most player of the match awards with 12, which was seven more than anyone else. Midfielder Lucas Cardona also topped the assists chart with 12.
Copa Sudamericana Final
Alianza Lima’s first-ever continental final saw them face off against Brazilian giants Atlético Mineiro at Hernando Siles in La Paz, Bolivia. Mineiro were 5/4 favourites with Alianza at 15/8. Young defender Edison Murillo missed out with a hip injury while his partner Sánchez had a knock but simply had to play. So Lazaró lined up:
Zuta; Carbone, Sánchez, Ramírez, Giacchino; Aliaga, Trujillo, Posada; Cardona, Valdivia; Méndez
Subs: Vega, Collantes, Carbajal, Quinones, Solano, Llontop, Sambataro, Liza, Contreras, Paravé
Méndez wasted a huge opportunity early on, and Mineiro punished him by going down the other end to score with their first shot. Because of course they did! But Alianza were much the better side and Méndez redeemed himself on 37 minutes, as he raced through and coolly slotrted home the equaliser. Mineiro improved after the break and both sides hit the bar before midfielder Quinones had a goal narrowly ruled out for offside.
But they couldn’t be separated and the sides went to extra-time. Both sides were exhausted and very little happened except for Méndez heading a tough chance over. So it went to the dreaded penalties.
Mineiro went first… and hit the post! Andrés Posada stepped up to tuck home, as did the next four Mineiro players and his next three teammates. That heaped all the pressure on Solano, who took a deep breath and slammed the ball into the bottom left corner.
Alianza Lima were Copa Sudamericana Champions!!
Lazaró was expecting to head into a Champions Playoff series. However, their winning margin at the top was apparently insurmountable as the playoff winner gets an extra six points added to their total. So, somewhat unceremoniously, Alianza Lima were the Champions of Peru!
What a season this was for Lazaró. Upon taking over at Alianza, he knew they were the best team in the league, but didn’t expect to dominate the competition so easily. And he certainly wasn’t expecting continental success!
But there’s only one place to begin this review: the majestic Fredy Méndez. The striker has been sensational this year, setting a new club record 43 goals in 40 matches and a new club record of 32 league goals! He was the top scorer in both the league and the Copa Sudamericana. And that earned him fans’ player of the season with 78% of the vote.
Cardona, who signed on a free transfer at the start of the season, set a new club record of 16 assists and new goalkeeper Claudio Zuta broke the club’s clean sheets record with 19. While right-back Lucio Carbone set a new record of most league appearances with 149 and centre-back Carlos Ramírez became the youngest goalscorer in club history.
Time to move again!
With the Peruvian title won at the first opportunity, it was once again time to move onwards and upwards. Peru was now added to titles in Chile, USA, Uruguay and Colombia. That left him with Argentina, Brazil, Canada and México still to conquer, so he was over halfway towards his mission of conquering the Américas.
This time around, there was no need to resign as Méxican side Puebla FC came straight in with an offer. And, despite the club apparently being a step backwards, they offered Lazaró a transfer budget of £9.25 million and wage budget of £191,000, compared to the £1.7 million and £92,500 he was working with at Alianza, and a wage of £3,300-a-week compared to the £1,800 he was on. However, this will be a bit of a different challenge…
Join us next time as Robinho Lazaró packs his bags to move back to North America in México!