Independiente's Copa Libertadores clash with Santos was dramatically suspended last night as angry fans of the Brazilian club side rioted.
The crunch showdown between the two sides had to be called off before the final whistle after angry local fans fought with police and threw fireworks onto the pitch. Some fans stormed the chicken-wire fence surrounding the pitch, with a handful managing to scale the barriers and enter the field of play. Police, who responded by beating fans with batons, eventually fired smoke grenades in an attempt to quell the unrest.
The second leg of the round-of-16 match was tied 0-0 with less than 10 minutes to go when Santos supporters began ripping seats from the stands.
Supporters were furious over a decision announced by South American football governing body CONMEBOL that Independiente had been awarded a 3-0 win in the first leg, despite that match also ending 0-0, after Santos fielded an ineligible player. In bizarre fashion, that ruling had been delivered just nine hours before kick off, thereby turning the tie – which had previously hung on a knife edge – into a much more difficult proposition for the Brazilian side.
CONMEBOL said the player in question, Uruguay international Carlos Sánchez, had not served out all three matches of a ban handed out in 2015, back when he played for River Plate. Santos countered that the ban did not show up on CONMEBOL's own online system, which they checked prior to the game.
After the match was abandoned by its Chilean official, the continental body said the 0-0 result from the second leg would stand, meaning Independiente advance.
The Rojo will now face Racing or River Plate in the tournament's quarter-finals.
The incident has once again cast the spotlight on CONMEBOL, an organisation tainted by mismanagement and a series of graft scandals involving its previous top leaders in recent years.
Santos' 17-year-old striker Rodrygo, who was recently signed by Real Madrid, said he would have acted like the fans did if he were on the stands.
"This is shameful. These fans are totally right," he told journalists. "We need to understand how fans feel. We went to Argentina, played as hard as we could, drew 0-0 and then we arrive here losing 3-0. CONMEBOL is responsible."
Hours later Rodrygo said on his social media channels that he regretted his statements and that he is against fan violence.
Santos right-back Victor Ferraz said the first-leg ruling was making him think of hanging his boots.
"CONMEBOL gave this qualification to Independiente, this is unbelievable, unexplainable and I can't quite believe it," the 30-year-old player said on social media. "When I saw that chaos on the pitch I could only think that those that caused such suffering were not there to feel the fear, the anger they had caused."
The match in Buenos Aires two weeks ago was Sánchez' first game back under CONMEBOL's jurisdiction since 2015, having left to play for Mexico's Monterrey.
Officials at the Pacaembu stadium in São Paulo said 60 seats were ripped off during the incident.