Buenos Aires Times

sports MATCH REPORT

River defeat 10-men Boca to clinch Copa Libertadores title in Madrid

Millo bag two in extra time to win 3-1 on the night, after Wilmar Barrios is sent off, sealing 5-3 aggregate win.

Sunday 9 December, 2018
River Plate's players celebrate with the Copa Libertadores trophy, after beating arch-rivals Boca Juniors in Madrid.
River Plate's players celebrate with the Copa Libertadores trophy, after beating arch-rivals Boca Juniors in Madrid. Foto:AP/Manu Fernandez

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River Plate are the Copa Libertadores champions, having secured the title more than 10,000 kilometres away from their own stadium.

The Millo secured a dramatic 3-1 victory over Boca Juniors in Madrid tonight, coming back from a goal down to secure a 5-3 aggregate win.

It's River's fourth Libertadores crown and one of the most controversial – and satisfying, after the team saw off their arch-rivals to claim a victory for the ages.

For Boca, reduced to 10 men in extra time after Wilmar Barrios was sent off for a two-footed challenge, defeat will be hard to take. After a 2-2 draw in November's first leg in Buenos Aires, Dario Benedetto sent their fans hearts soaring when he scored a well-taken goal just before half-time. River, however, forced their way back into the game after a disappointing first 45 minutes, eventually equalising through Lucas Pratto on 68 minutes.

A magnificent goal from Juan Fernando Quintero gave the Millo the lead on 109 minutes and as Boca desperately sought an equaliser in the closing minutes, Gonzalo 'Pity' Martínez wrapped up victory with the last kick of the game.

Boca in fact ended the game with nine men, after injury-prone midfielder Fernando Gago had limped off with more than five minutes still on the clock.

Atmosphere

Despite the distance from Argentina, fans of both sides delivered a wonderful atmosphere, with drums, flags and banners bringing a corner of Buenos Aires to the Spanish capital.

A thrusting first half was dominated by Boca, with captain Pablo Pérez having two good chances to open the scoring. It was striker Darío Benedetto, however, that broke the deadlock just before half-time after scoring past Franco Armani and ending a devastating counter-attack.

River levelled the scores in the second half through Pratto and with the scores level, the match went into extra time. The dismissal of Colombian Wilmar Barrios, however, altered things dramatically, with River increasingly taking control. As the match dragged on and penalties looked more likely, Quintero then fired home a brilliant left-footed strike and the balance had definitely swung River's way. 

With Boca reduced to nine, after the injury of Fernando Gago, and Boca throwing everyone forward in search of a goal, 'Pity' Martinez scored a breakaway third to finish the match and send the title off to the Monumental, leaving River's fans celebrating long into the night.

Epic

The victory brings an epic clash – that became famous across the world for not only good reasons – to a close.

The second leg, originally due to take place at the Monumental was postponed twice and transferred from Buenos Aires to the Spanish capital after River fans attacked Boca's team bus on November 24 ahead of the second leg, leaving players injured and suffering from the effects of tear gas.

The first leg at Boca's La Bombonera Stadium in Buenos Aires had ended 2-2.

Spanish police enforced a two-kilometre security perimeter between Boca and River fans around the stadium. Fortunately, no violent incidents between fans were reported pre-match. 

At Boca's fan zone, supporters threw confetti in their team's colour of blue and yellow. Horacio Sanchez, who came from Argentina for the decider, said the game didn't suffer from a lack of atmosphere. 

"Boca fans are Boca fans anywhere. We do it all for Boca, we brought a great atmosphere to Madrid. It is not just like Argentina, but it is near," he said.

Speaking before the game, a few blocks away, Claudio Aguilar was wrapped in a River flag as he waited for his team to leave the hotel. He had just come from Plaza de Cuzco, where other supporters were spinning red and white umbrellas in the air.

"It cost me a lot to be here, but I do anything for River. This final does not have the same taste, it is far from home and I can't fulfill my dream of celebrating with my neighbors on the streets of our city. But we have to win, maybe we will never play a Libertadores final against Boca again," he said.

Claudio got his wish and River are the champions of South America.

- TIMES/AFP/AP

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