Wonderkid Factory | Part 24 | Copa Libertadores Excitement

Robinho Lazaró had assembled the best squad he’d worked with in his 12 years as Envigado FC manager. Going into the second half of the 2033 campaign, the club had won six of the last eight Liga BetPlay Dimayor titles, reached the least eight league stage finals and was seeking a fifth successive Finalización victory.

The season break began with some terrible news as striker Luis Mendoza suffered a broken leg that would rule him out for over six months. Then starting striker Mateo Acevedo and midfielder Randi Redín suffered groin strains and would miss a month. While another attacking talent departed as winger Jonathan Arias joined Xolos Tijuana for £2m plus a 40% sell-on – replacing another former Envigado winger Felipe Toro, who joined Santos Laguna from Xolos.

The positive news was that Colomba internationals Acevedo – who is 12 goals short of Diego Rodríguez’s club record of 99 league goals – and left-back Andrés Mira signed new contracts. While the loss of Arias didn’t matter too much as Cristian Gutiérrez, Yhojan Vivas and Alirio Plaza were more than ready to replace him and 17-year-old starlet Edisón Borrero could replace Acevedo and Mendoza.

Desperate For Some Copa Libertadores Luck

Envigado had suffered some nightmarish draws in their previous seven Copa Libertadores second-round ties. But 2033 saw them get their best draw yet as they were paired with Argentinian side Independiente.

First up was a trip to Buenos Aires and the curse looked to be lifted. Borrero scored a brilliant hat-trick before a late goal from midfielder Hernán Darío Lugo sealed a 4-2 victory. Back on home ground, Envigado started well as winger Jaiber Prince missed two great chances. But Borrero was at it again, latching onto Gutiérrez’s pass and coolly slotting home after half an hour then getting down the left and crossing for Ronaldo Bermudez to double the lead five minutes later. Borrero had two goals disallowed after the break but they settled for a 2-0 win. And Envigado reached the Copa Libertadores quarter-finals for the first time!

Their reward was a tie against one of six remaining Brazilian sides in Internacional, who knocked them out of the 2031 second round. A trip to Brazil was up first and Lazaró had his first-choice 11 available for the first time in two months. They played fairly well to limit a much stronger Internacional side and held the Brazilians to a 1-0 win.

The home leg started poorly as Internacional had two big chances but, thankfully, missed both. Acevedo made them pay as he latched onto a great Prince through-ball and coolly tucked it home, but Internacional got level just before half-time. Lazaró gave his team a stern talking to and it worked immediately as Acevedo won and converted a penalty. And the game turned on an inspired substitution. Lazaró brought the half-fit Redín off the bench after an hour and, seven minutes later, he hit a delicious first-time shot into the top corner to put his side ahead in the tie for the first time. Lazaró went more cautious and they hung on for arguably the biggest result in club history.

That was because Envigado were in the Copa Libertadores semi-finals for the first time in club history. However, they were unlikely to go any further as they took on Flamengo, who have an unreal team including Sávio on an outrageous £140k a week and all 24 first-team players earning more than Envigado’s top earner, while Palmeiras faced Santos in the other semi.

This time the first leg was at home and they did well to earn a 0-0, which is the first time Envigado didn’t lose to Flamengo in nine meetings. They also started the away leg well as Borrero put a decent chance just wide. But they were instantly punished as Evanilson – who’s on £54k a week – scored an identical chance. Flamengo obviously dominated but Envigado did well to frustrate them until Evanilson scored again 16 minutes from time.

Envigado exited at the semi-final stage but Lazaró was delighted with his team’s efforts. Flamengo went on to win their sixth Libertadores of the save, ending a four-year drought without being champions of South America, by beating Palmeira 4-1 in the Final. And it seems unlikely Envigado will ever be able to compete with these elite Brazilian clubs. However, Acevedo came 2nd in the tournament’s Best Player award, scoring nine with a 7.95 average rating – only bettered by Paranaense’s Eliel, who scored an outrageous 20 in 10 games with an 8.37 average rating (but has somehow only scored 4 in 32 in the league!).

Seeking More Finalización Glory

Not that it matters, but Envigado had topped the last two league stage tables and Lazaró was keen to continue stamping his side’s authority on the rest of Colombia. Domination was what he got in the stage opener as Envigado had 23 shots to Bogotá’s zero. But they only made one count as Prince scored the only goal after 80 minutes.

Lazaró had to rotate around the continental games and they lost at Millonarios and Borrero earned a point at Junior. Acevedo’s return from injury saw the Envigado fans burst into repeats of “50 goals, 50 goals, Acevedo” and he rewarded them by scoring twice in a 2-1 win over América, which took him to within 10 goals of Rodríguez’s record. And he moved to 90 league goals with the opener at Santander before Bahoque and Plaza secured a 3-1 win.

More rotation saw some ropey form, with the highlight being Borrero coming in to score a hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Petrolero. But Envigado still found themselves 5th with six games remaining, while Acevedo had hit an unusual spell of poor form with just one goal in his last seven games. But Borrero bailed him and the team out with a late equaliser at Santa Fe then scored twice in a 3-3 with Magdalena.

In fact, according to the club’s coaches, Borrero had suddenly become better than Acevedo, which gave Lazaró somewhat of a conundrum. His solution was to play Acevedo as an inside forward on the right and start Borrero up top, which worked very nicely in its first test as both scored in a 4-0 win at Orsomarso.

Borrero scored again in a 3-1 win at home to Cortuluá, which lifted Envigado to 4th with two games remaining. Acevedo scored the only goal at Tolima before a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Independiente on the final day. That saw Envigado finish 6th on 36 points and they were again the top scorers with 34 goals.

Finalización Post-Season

Envigado got easily the more favourable post-season group alongside Bogotá, Cortuluá and Junior. They began at Junior and Borrero and a 93rd-minute Prince winner nicked a 2-1 win. Three days later Borrero and Acevedo secured a 2-2 at home to Bogotá then a nice moment saw Mendoza score on his return to secure a 1-1 at home to Junior. Two days later, the same result followed at Cortuluá, who they then thumped 4-0 another two days later.

That teed up a group decider as Envigado travelled to Bogotá, who they trailed by one point. Could Envigado seal a ninth successive league stage Final? Yep! An Acevedo penalty in the ninth minute was enough for a 1-0 win and top spot in the group.

Envigado’s fifth Finalización final in a row was a repeat of this season’s Apertura Final as they took on Nacional. They started with a bang as Rodolfo Vega headed home from a corner inside two minutes and Borrero doubled the lead six minutes later. But nothing happened after that and it finished 2-0.

The first half of the second leg was equally bad until Prince broke down the left and passed inside for Redín, who’d been in horrible form, to stroke home the opener. But Nacional went down the other end and scored their first shot on target. But Envigado held them at arm’s length to secure a 1-1 draw and 3-1 aggregate victory.

Envigado won a 5th straight Finalización title and secured the Apertura and Finalización double!!

Celebrating A Liga BetPlay Double!

Ths latest success took Lazaró and Envigado to nine Colombian titles as well as seven cup successes. Envigado were easily the best team in Colombia, having won the least three league stage titles, four of the last five and nine of the last 11 since 2029.

This season’s star man was probably still Acevedo, who scored a club-high 38 goals in 49 games with eight assists and a 7.64 average rating. That saw the 21-year-old defend both his Liga BetPlay Player and Young Player of the Year awards. But the form of Borrero, who just turned 18, was pretty impressive, scoring 27 in 36, of which just 25 were starts. The youngster won Finalización Top Goalscorer with 19 in 2.

Bermudez impressed with 24 assists and 15 goals in 57 games, as did Prince who scored 16 and assisted 19 in 55 games and Mendoza with 14 goals in 32. But Lazaró was most happy with having 12 players averaging 7.00 or above, which he was fairly sure was a new record.

Could Lazaró keep hold of these exciting youngsters in the 2034 campaign? Join us on Friday to find out!


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