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Liverpool cult hero goes to Copa Libertadores zero with penalty miss

Maxi Rodriguez missed the vital fifth penalty as Newell's Old Boys lost out to Atletico Mineiro in the Copa Libertadores semi-final.

Argentine winger Maxi Rodriguez was something of a cult hero at Liverpool. His work ethic and clear passion at playing in front of The Kop endeared him to the Liverpool faithful; who used to sing his name to the melody of the Buddy Holly classic ‘Heartbeat’.

It was something I covered a week ago as his name popped up in my screen as a goalscorer against Atletico Mineiro in the first leg of a Copa Libertadores semi-final.

And if you think Liverpool fans were keen on Maxi they have nothing on the fans of Newell’s Old Boys.

Maxi started his career at the club and is now in the process of finishing it in his hometown of Rosario.

So when he scored the opener last week against Ronaldinho’s current employers he peeled his shirt off to celebrate passionately with his fans; who adore him as one of their own.

In the end the Argentine side won that fixture 2-0 and travelled to Brazil yesterday with the hope of finishing off the tie and making it to the Copa Libertadores final for the first time in their history.

But if Maxi was the hero last week he was, unfortunately, the villain in the second leg.

Because it will instead be Atletico in their first Libertadores final after they won on penalties in an exhausting tie at the Estadio Raimundo Sampaio.

Maxi was not the only familiar name on show from ghosts of Premier League past. Gabriel Heinze and Gilberto Silva of Liverpool and Arsenal fame respectively both played at centre-back for their clubs; and it was reported Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur target Bernard who got the ball rolling. He latched on to an excellent Ronaldinho through ball to poke away left-footed for a 1-0 lead.

Then, with six minutes remaining, Mineiro grabbed the crucial second goal when former Dynamo Kiev and CSKA Moscow midfielder Guilherme smashed home a half volley to take the game to extra-time.

No winner could be found after extra-time so the game went to penalties.

After four penalties each it was 2-2; with former Manchester City and Everton striker Jo missing for Mineiro.

So it was now sudden death; with both teams star veterans tasked with taking their club into a historic Copa Libertadores final.

Ronaldinho stepped up and cooly slotted the ball past the Newell’s keeper leaving Maxi with the daunting task of keeping the dream alive.

But amid a crescendo of boos from the home crowd he could not find the corner and Atletico keeper Victor sprawled across the goal to earn Atletico Mineiro their first Libertadores final.

The Brazilian side will take on Paraguayan outfit Olimpia after they despatched of Colombian side Santa Fe on Tuesday.

Here are the penalties from the game…

image: © k1ngk0ng

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