Estudiantes earned the only win for the Argentina/United States group in the final match of the FC Challenge portion of the 2017 Florida Cup with a 1-0 victory over Brazilian side Esporte Clube Bahia. The Argentinians won the second match of a double-header at Bright House Networks Stadium on the campus of the University of Central Florida thanks to an own-goal from the Brazilians.
Neither side mounted a whole lot of offense in a choppy first half, although there were a few chances early. Bahia’s Jackson Souza got a head to a long free kick in the fourth minute but it was easily stopped by Estudiantes keeper Mariano Andujar. The Brazilian club came close again in the sixth minute when Hernane Souza's header deflected wide off a defender after a nice cross by Regis Salmazzo.
Estudiantes got a good look at the 10-minute mark when Ignacio Bailone cracked an attempt over the bar. A minute later, Leander Desabato got a free header off a corner kick cross but nodded his effort high.
Five minutes later, disaster struck for Bahia. Israel Damonte blasted a fantastic cross across the top of the 6-yard box and defender Guilherme da Silva (a.k.a. “Tinga”) blasted a header right past his own goalkeeper, starter Jean Filho. The own-goal provided Estudiantes with a 1-0 lead at the 16-minute mark, which was all the scoring in the first half. You’d be hard pressed to find a more emphatic own-goal.
Bahia worked hard to try to equalize. Régis Salmazzo sent a cross just out of reach of a sliding Tiago Pagnussat in the 21st minute and Paulo Junior sent a free kick fizzing on target in the 24th to force a save from Andujar.
Estudiantes’ best chance to double the lead came in the 27th minute when a free kick fell at the top of the box for Facundo Sanchez but his shot was blocked by the defense. The final good opportunity of the opening period came when Junior forced a diving Andujar save on a rather innocent-looking free kick from distance. The Argentinian squad took their 1-0 lead to the break.
Much like the early game in the double-header, the chances were fewer after the break as both teams started substituting liberally. The clock operator kept pace with the play, having a rough opening few minutes in the second half. The clock started over from 0:00, then stuck on 47:00 for a minute or so, then went to 48:00 and stopped and eventually began working as usual.
The first good chance of the second half came in the 55th minute when a cross came into the 6-yard box but was just out of the reach of Jose Vivian, who collided with substitute Bahia goalkeeper Anderson Campos. Campos was able to continue. Two minutes later, Rodrigo Brana blasted a shot high for Estudiantes, looking to double the lead.
That was about the last meaningful chance for either side until things got interesting in the final 10 minutes. In the 83rd, Facundo Quintana of Estudiantes blasted a drive from about 30 yards, forcing a save from Campos and earning a corner. Before the set piece was taken, some pushing and shoving in the penalty area took place and Estudiantes forward Javier Toledo was sent off, leaving the Argentina side down a man for the final seven minutes plus stoppage.
Bahia cleared the ensuing corner but could not mount any serious attacking chances despite their manpower advantage. The Brazilian side didn’t even manage a single shot attempt after going up a man for the final seven minutes of normal time, plus about five minutes of stoppage time.
The whistle blew, and Estudiantes took away all three points. The Argentinian club finished with a win and a draw with a penalty shootout loss in two Florida Cup FC Challenge outings. Bahia finished with a single point after losing to Estudiantes and drawing in regulation with Wolfsburg before falling in the penalty shootout.
Final Standings of Florida Cup FC Challenge:
Bayer Leverkusen - 5 points
Wolfsburg - 5 points
Atletico Mineiro - 3 points
Bahia - 1 point
Estudiantes - 4 points
Tampa Bay Rowdies - 0 points
*Germany wins FC Challenge
The 2017 Florida Cup rolls on starting Wednesday with a double-header at UCF. At 4:30 p.m., Barcelona SC from Ecuador and Millonarios FC from Colombia will meet in the consolation match of the FC Playoff stage at Bright House Networks Stadium. Then the first semifinal match will take place in the late game at 7 p.m. when Brazilian sides Vasco da Gama and Corinthians meet.
The other semifinal takes place on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Al Lang Stadium with River Plate from Argentina taking on Sao Paulo from Brazil.