BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – The Libertadores Cup followed a familiar script on the opening night of the group phase on Tuesday with eight players sent off and Universidad de Chile fans putting their team at risk of sanctions for using fireworks.
Referee Raul Orozco brandished his red card at five players in Montevideo, where Wanderers rallied to beat Venezuelan champions Zamora 3-2 at Parque Central in Group Five.
Zamora defender Angel Faria was shown a straight red in the 20th minute and the Uruguayan side had midfielder Adrian Colombino dismissed for his second booking after half an hour.
Level at 1-1 at halftime after teenager Jhon Murillo had put the visitors ahead and Gaston Rodriguez equalised, Zamora took the lead again with Arles Flores’s fine long-range shot in the 54th minute.
However, Wanderers turned the match around in the final 12 minutes from a penalty by Nicolas Albarracin and substitute Leandro Reymundez’s headed winner.
Three more players were sent off in the closing minutes with Zamora’s Panamanian defender Luis Ovalle the next to go for a second yellow card in the 78th.
Three minutes into stoppage time, man-of-the-match Murillo and Wanderers forward Juan Mascia clashed off the ball after a tackle and Bolivian Orozco, his patience exhausted, showed them both straight red cards.
Ecuadorean champions Emelec had two players sent off in their Group Four match away to Universidad de Chile in Santiago but held on for a 1-0 victory thanks to striker Miller Bolanos’s 64th minute goal.
Defender John Narvaez and Paraguayan midfielder Fernando Gimenez were both dismissed in the final nine minutes for second bookings.
Fans of “La U” lit flares and set off firecrackers with the club likely to be punished by tournament organisers CONMEBOL, who ordered holders San Lorenzo to play their first home match behind closed doors after fans used fireworks during last year’s final.
“Unfortunately, this has happened despite all our efforts (to prevent it)… We have images and we’re going to show them through all media to be able to identify the people who harmed the club,” Felipe De Pablo, assistant manager of club owners Azul Azul, was quoted as saying in El Mercurio.
South America’s top club competition has been marred over the years by indiscipline and violence on and off the pitch.
In another Group Four match, Brazil’s Internacional were beaten 3-1 by The Strongest of Bolivia at high altitude in La Paz and had striker Nilmar sent off two minutes from time for a foul on defender Diego Wayar.
Argentine champions Racing Club crushed Venezuela’s Deportivo Tachira 5-0 away in Group Eight.