River Plate defeat Boca Juniors to clinch Copa Libertadores title

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Madrid, Dec 10 (IANS) River Plate, scoring two goals in overtime after battling Boca Juniors to a 1-1 tie in regulation time, took home the Copa Libertadores trophy in a nailbiting second-leg match here where a besieged Boca found itself down two men late in play.

Colombia’s Juan Fernando Quintero scored the first River goal in overtime on Sunday, while Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez scored the second after Boca was at the two-man disadvantage with the expulsion of Wilmar Barrios on a second yellow card and Fernando Gago’s injury, which forced him to leave the match, reports Efe.

It was the first time in history that the two arch-rivals battled it out in the Copa Libertadores final.

The second leg of the Superclasico final was played on the “neutral ground” of Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium before around 62,000 spectators – nowhere near a sellout crowd – and came after the first leg on November 11 had ended in a 2-2 draw.

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The no away-goal rule was in place for the match, and thus the second leg was a winner-take-all proposition.

Dario Benedetto had gotten Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s Boca – the designated visitors – on the board first in the 44th minute, but River, coached by Marcelo Gallardo, started to pull together in the second half and Lucas Pratto managed to get the equaliser in the 68th minute.

Although during the first leg in Buenos Aires just under a month ago both teams had hit the ground with all guns blazing, the Sunday match – with everything on the line – was a much more circumspect affair with the two squads angling and hedging early on with lots of aggressive play but few shots on goal.

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Some intensely physical play on the part of both squads – but little in the way of admonishments by the three Uruguayan referees – led to not much of exciting soccer until Benedetto’s fabulous tally on a pass from Nandez.

River Plate upped its game in the second half with Maidana trying a header that went high and Fernandez firing a close but strongly curling shot that went wide.

Pratto secured the equaliser on a brilliant shot from inside the box, and regulation time ended at 1-1 after neither team could manage to get much else going in the way of shots on goal, forcing an extra time duel.

Wilmar Barrios was expelled in the 92nd minute on a second yellow card, leaving Boca down by a man and seemingly taking the wind out of its sails, whereupon it opted for a defensive stance.

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But River Plate patiently probed for its chance, and finally in the 110th minute Quintero blasted in a tremendous shot making it 2-1.

Fernando Gago was injured and had to leave the pitch, and Boca was out of substitutions having to try and stave off disaster with just nine men – a task that proved to be impossible.

Gonzalo Martinez waited until the last minute of extra time – the 122nd minute – to notch his own tally into an empty net for the 3-1 victory.

–IANS

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