Palmeiras and Santos set up all-Brazilian Copa Libertadores final

January 14 – Sao Paulo giants Palmeiras and Santos will decide the 2020 Copa Libertadores after eliminating River Plate and Boca Juniors in the last four, making the showpiece match an all-Brazilian affair for the first time since 2006. 

It will be the second consecutive season that the Copa Libertadores will have a Brazilian champion. On Wednesday, Santos swept past Boca Juniors 3-0 to set up a final against local rivals Palmeiras, who eliminated River Plate earlier this week.

Pele’s former club had dominated the first leg in Buenos Aires but failed to score away from home, getting a valuable 0-0 draw. At the Vila Belmiro, there was however no mistaking the best team. The Brazilians stormed forward from the start and were richly rewarded with three goals before the hour mark. In the first half, Pituca opened the score before a double whammy from Soteldo and Lucas Braga knocked Boca out of the tie and competition.

An impotent and cautious Boca Juniors vented their frustration when Frank Fabra stamped on Marinho and was duly sent off.

Santos move into their first Copa Libertadores final since 2011, a remarkable achievement given the club’s perilous financial situation off the pitch. Santos are all but broke and world federation FIFA have banned the club from making any new signings. The club’s president was also impeached for mismanagement, while the squad has been plagued by Covid-19 outbreaks.

They will meet Palmeiras on January 30 behind closed doors at the Maracana. The Sao Paulo club squeezed past River Plate on Tuesday almost ceding a 3-0 advantage from the first leg. River Plate won the second leg 2-0, but couldn’t complete a miraculous rescue operation. Roberto Rojas and Santos Borre pulled two goals back before half-time as River Plate dominated in midfield to take control of the match.

Just after the break, River Plate seemed to have levelled the tie when Gonzalo Montiel volleyed in a third, but VAR chalked the goal off for offside. Inside the last 20 minutes, Borre was send off, following a VAR check. The video technology kept playing a key role as River stormed forward and the club were denied a penalty. It was not to be for the visitors and they bowed out at the semi-finals stage.

Palmeiras last reached the Copa Libertadores final in 1999. It is the first time that the two Sao Paulo clubs will meet in a continental final. In December, they drew 2-2 in the Brazilian league.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1611025596labto1611025596ofdlr1611025596owedi1611025596sni@o1611025596fni1611025596