Defending champ Liga faces elimination
MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) -Ecuador's Liga de Quito is in danger of becoming only the second defending champion to be eliminated from the Copa Libertadores in the group stage after a 2-0 away loss to Brazilian club Palmeiras on Tuesday.
A scrambled goal from Marcao after 47 minutes and a Diego Souza free kick in the 82nd secured a much-needed win for Palmeiras in the Group 1 clash.
Liga still has a mathematical chance of qualifying for the tournament's last 16, but depends on an unlikely combination of results, as well as a hefty swing in goal difference to advance.
Meanwhile, Uruguayan club Nacional sealed its progression from Group 3 despite conceding a late equalizer to Universidad San Martin in Peru.
Marcos Mondaini opened the scoring for Nacional after 73 minutes, before Gonzalo Luduena leveled the scores with a free kick in the 88th.
The draw leaves Nacional leading the group with 11 points, ahead of San Martin on eight points. Argentine giant River Plate has four points and will play Nacional of Paraguay, already eliminated with just one point, on Thursday.
In the group's closing fixtures next Thursday, Nacional of Uruguay hosts Nacional of Paraguay, while San Martin travels to River Plate.
Liga's loss in Brazil means Colo Colo of Chile leads Group 1 with seven points, ahead of Palmeiras and fellow Brazilian club Sport Recife on goal difference.
Liga trails in last place on four points and will mirror the embarrassing early exit of former champion Internacional of Brazil in 2007 if Sport avoids defeat at home against Colo Colo on Wednesday.
The final round of fixtures in the group will be played next Wednesday when Palmeiras travels to Colo Colo and Sport visits Liga.
Neither club played with fluency Tuesday in the opening exchanges in Sao Paulo. Palmeiras enjoyed better attacking possession, but Liga's defense held firm.
Striker Keirrison had the first opportunity for Palmeiras, forcing a good save from Jose Cevallos after a corner fell to him in the box.
Liga hit the post with a deflected long range effort just after 30 minutes, but Palmeiras goalkeeper Marcos otherwise enjoyed a quiet night.
The Brazilian club took the lead shortly after halftime when Cevallos made a mess of punching a corner kick. The ball fell to Marcao, who nudged the ball over the goal line.
Diego Souza extended the lead in the closing stages when his long range free kick flew into the top corner.
Both teams finished with 10 men when Marquinhos of Palmeiras and Miller Bolanos of Liga were sent off after a scuffle in the 72nd minute.