By Rex Gowar, Reuters
Reuters–Bolivar were lucky an act of violence by fans against Santos ace Neymar did not get their Libertadores Cup last-16 first leg in La Paz suspended on Wednesday as they went on to a record a 2-1 victory.
Neymar was about to take a corner in the 78th minute when he was hit by an object thrown from the crowd at the packed Hernando Siles stadium in the Bolivian capital and fell to the ground.
The 20-year-old was soon back up on his feet, but the Fox Sports television commentator said Chilean referee Enrique Osses warned Bolivar he would suspend the match if there was a repeat of the incident.
South American champions Santos once again struggled in the thin air of La Paz, 3,600 meters above sea level, having lost to The Strongest at the start of their defense of the title in February.
However, they recovered to win their group and qualify with home advantage in the second leg of the first knockout round at the Vila Belmiro in two weeks’ time.
“They don’t like playing here,” said Bolivian international Jhasmany Campos, voted man of the match after his part in both of Bolivar’s goals.
“We set out to score at least three goals to be calm for the return in Brazil, we ran and probed but we couldn’t score more,” he told Fox Sports.
Bolivar stunned Santos by taking the lead after 90 seconds when midfielder Campos’s free kick came back off the far post, hit goalkeeper Rafael and went in. The woodwork also played a part in the Brazilian side’s 35th-minute equalizer when goalkeeper Marcos Arguello dived to save former Brazil midfielder Elano’s free kick but the ball came back off the post and right back Maranhao followed up to ram it home.
The winner in the 75th minute also came from a free kick, Campos curling his low shot inside the base of the near post past Rafael’s dive.