Soccer-Perez hands 2013 semi-finalists Libertadores lifeline


BUENOS AIRES, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Argentine midfielder Omar Perez turned from villain to hero with a late goal as Colombia's Independiente Santa Fe were beaten 2-1 away at Morelia of Mexico on the opening night of the Libertadores Cup on Tuesday.

Perez's goal from a free kick, seven minutes after his 77th-minute penalty was saved by Morelia goalkeeper Felipe Rodriguez in the first leg of the qualifying round tie, gives last year's semi-finalists a lifeline for next week's second leg in Bogota.

Chilean striker Hector Mancilla and midfielder Armando Zamorano had given the "Monarchs" a two-goal lead in the match at the Estadio Morelos.

Three times champions Nacional of Uruguay must also attempt to overcome a deficit after losing 1-0 to Bolivia's Oriente Petrolero in the first leg of their tie in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Bolivia midfielder Gualberto Mojica scored the only goal after half an hour.

"We need to improve a lot if we want to turn this tie around. We didn't make the most of the dead ball (situations) and we lacked cohesion at the back," coach Gerardo Pelusso told reporters.

Nacional have five players serving two-month bans until March 23 for their part in a brawl near the end of a mid-season friendly against arch-rivals Penarol in Montevideo last week.

Penarol, looking to win the competition for a sixth time and who were losing finalists in 2011, have brought the much-travelled Jorge Fossati back as coach.

Penarol qualified for the group stage starting on Feb. 11 but had a dismal first half of the season, finishing eighth in the domestic Apertura championship, and sacked Jorge Goncalves on Monday after less than four months in charge.

Fossati, a former Penarol goalkeeper, is back for a second spell as their coach after steering them to the Uruguayan league title in 1996.

The 61-year-old has coached in several South American countries including Argentina, where he had played for Independiente and Rosario Central, and in the Middle East, where he steered Al-Sadd of Qatar to the Asian Champions League title in 2011. (Writing by Rex Gowar in London; Editing by John O'Brien)

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