Palmeiras of Sao Paulo are the Copa Libertadores champions for the first time since 1999 after winning a dramatic all-Brazilian final 1-0 over city rivals Santos on Saturday at the legendary Maracana stadium.
The sole and winning goal came only in the 99th minute thanks to striker Breno Lopes in a game that took 104 minutes to hear the final whistle, dpa reports.
The match had a slow pace in the first half with both nervous teams moving tentatively. The result were 45 minutes with few chances, no shots on target and many fouls.
The two sides had good goal opportunities after the break – Palmeiras with a free kick from midfielder Raphael Veiga and Santos with defender Lucas Verissimo – but the spark of a better half soon died off.
Palmeiras keeper Weverton denied Felipe Jonatan the opener with a nice save in the 76th minute. Later Santos coach Cuca saw a red card after a touchline scuffle with an opposing player.
When the game looked set to go to extra-time, Breno Lopes emerged as a hero. The striker headed in a cross from Rony to make it 1-0 and secure the title for Palmeiras – on the incredible mark of 99 minutes.
This was Lopes’s second goal for the team he joined in November 2020. The first one he scored in a league game against Vasco da Gama on Wednesday.
“It’s a day I will never forget, to score the Libertadores winner,” Lopes told broadcaster SBT. “Our supporters deserve it. Palmeiras have been working for a long time for this title. I’m very happy, I can’t explain the feeling.
“From the moment I took this challenge I had to be prepared for everything. Palmeiras’ staff trusted me. Today I proved I’m ready to play here,” Lopes said.
Santos midfielder Alison described the last minute defeat as “painful”, but said they “have to move forward” as the domestic league is not over yet and the club are seven points off the Libertadores qualification zone.
“It’s painful to get so close, but that’s football, one team has to win,” Alison said.
“Nobody believed we would get here. We have to appreciate these boys; they fought a lot. It’s painful but we have to move forward. We knew it was going to be a difficult game. We conceded a goal in the last minutes and it was hard to strike back, there was no time. But we fought until the end,” he added.
Palmeiras secured a spot in the Club World Cup semi-final and they will face the winner of the match between Mexico’s Tigres UANL and South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai.
The other semi-final will feature European champions Bayern Munich against either Al Duhail of hosts Qatar or Al Ahly of Egypt. Oceania representative Auckland withdrew due to the coronavirus quarantine rules in New Zealand.
The Copa Libertadores final was supposed to be played behind closed doors but Conmebol allowed clubs to invite around 5,000 people.
Health and safety measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus did not appear to be enforced as fans didn’t respect social-distancing rules and some didn’t wear a mask.
Brazil is one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic with more than 220,000 deaths recorded so far.