By Samindra Kunti in Rio de Janeiro
October 24 – Flamengo trashed Gremio 5-0 to reach the Copa Libertadores final. They will meet Argentina’s River Plate, who had previously eliminated Boca Juniors. The winner of South America’s premier club competition will represent the continent at the Club World Cup in Qatar.
The second leg of the all-Brazilian semi-final between Flamengo and Gremio had been dubbed the club game of the year in Brazil after a 1-1 draw in Rio Grande Do Sul and with hysteria reaching a crescendo in Rio de Janeiro the match did not disappoint at a rambunctious Maracana Stadium.
In a tale of two halves the hosts struggled for control before the break. Renato Gaucho had organised his team to mark tightly, press high and exploit Flamengo’s high defensive line and Flamengo didn’t find the right answer, but two quick goals either side of the break decided the game. First, Bruno Henrique tapped in from close range before Gabriel Barbosa angled a shot into the roof the net.
The pair have scored nine out of Flamengo’s 11 goals in the knockout phase of the competition and Barbosa converted a penalty to ensure Flamengo’s progress.
The match was no longer a contest and Flamengo staged its home crowd with central defensive pairing Rodrigo Caio and Pablo Mari completing the 5-0 route and 6-1 win on aggregate. Flamengo last won the Copa Libertadores in 1981 when a Zico-led team defeated Cobreloao from Chile after three games.
In November, the Rio giants will face defending champions River Plate in the final. In a rematch of last year’s final River Plate were too strong for their Buenos Aires rivals Boca Juniors, River Plate winning 2-0 to go through on aggregate.
Santiago de Chile is set to stage the final, but amid social unrest in Chile South American governing body Conmebol is monitoring the situation and could still consider shifting the flagship final, in a new single-match format, away from the Chilean capital.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1582513838labto1582513838ofdlr1582513838owedi1582513838sni@o1582513838fni1582513838