Wednesday, March 20, 2019 | ePaper
Copa Libertadores saga ends as River Plate wins in Madrid
AP, Madrid :
Marcelo Gallardo, coach of Argentina's River Plate, celebrates with the trophy after defeating Argentina's Boca Juniors at the Copa Libertadores final soccer match in Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain on Sunday.
Madrid turned into Buenos Aires for a night Sunday, with tens of thousands of Argentine fans transforming Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu into a stadium of their own.
River Plate fans were the only ones celebrating in the end, both at home and in Spain, after the historic victory over fierce rival Boca Juniors in the twice-suspended final of the Copa Libertadores.
River came from behind to beat the rival 3-1 in the second leg after extra time to win South America's equivalent of the Champions League 5-3 on aggregate.
One of the most anticipated matches in South American soccer finally came to a conclusion, nearly a month after the first leg was played in Argentina.
The final capped one of the most embarrassing chapters in South American soccer, which saw its leaders unable to stage the historic match on the continent. The second leg had to be played in the Spanish capital after it was marred by fan violence in Buenos Aires two weeks ago, when Boca players were injured before the game after River fans attacked the team bus with rocks, bottles and wood.
Soccer great Lionel Messi and FIFA President Gianni Infantino were among those at the "superclasico" at the Bernabeu, which saw the Argentine fans chanting throughout the match in a unique scene at the traditional European stadium.
It was River's fourth Copa Libertadores title, and first since 2015. Boca Juniors remained on six titles and missed a chance to tie Argentina's Independiente as the competition's most successful club.
"River was the better team throughout the entire tournament," said Matias Biscay, River's assistant coach who replaced the suspended Marcelo Gallardo. "Our team played against the toughest opponents and knew how to overcome them. And in the final against our rival we were superior in both matches."
After reaching 1-1 after 90 minutes on Sunday, River went ahead when Juan Fernando Quintero scored four minutes into the second half of extra time, and Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez added a third goal in the final minutes of the high-profile match.