Fluminense win Copa Libertadores after Boca Junior force dramatic extra time

By Samindra Kunti in Rio de Janeiro

November 5 – Brazil’s Fluminense claimed their first Copa Libertadores title after a dramatic 2-1 extra-time victory against Argentina’s Boca Juniors with substitute John Kennedy getting a 99th-minute winner. 

Masters of extra time, Boca Juniors seemed on the way to another penalty shootout victory, but Kennedy’s thunderous strike after a well-worked move handed Fluminense the prize they had coveted most.

The Argentineans had taken Uruguay’s Nacional, Brazil’s Palmeiras and Racing to extra time en route to the final, but against the Rio club their luck ran out.

Copa Libertadores top scorer German Cano had put Fluminense ahead in the 36th minute with his 13th goal of the competition before Luis Advincula equalised in the second half, exploiting the time and space the Fluminense defense gifted him. The home team had dropped deeper and paid the price.

Diniz switched his formation by bringing on Kennedy and the striker richly rewarded his coach’s faith with the winning goal that will erase the pain of Fluminense’s lost Copa Libertadores final against LDU Quito in 2008.

Kennedy however was sent off because of his goal celebration, reducing Fluminense to ten men for the last 18 minutes of extra time and setting up a grandstand finish. As the final entered classic Libertadores territory with penalty claims, time-wasting, and mini-brawls, Boca Juniors’ Frank Fabra was also red-carded. Guga hit the post and Boca Juniors threw everything forward but could not find a late leveller.

“What they call Dinizismo, as long as I’m working I’ll continue following my own convictions,” said Diniz at a news conference after the final. “My biggest conviction is to do everything for the players. What I would say to the Diniz of yesterday, today and tomorrow is that I don’t consider a person to be a great champion just because he won a title.”

Fluminense will have the opportunity to win even more silverware this season as South America’s representative at the Club World Cup in Jeddah. They will meet Auckland, followed by Al Ahly or Al Ittihad in the semi-finals. With the victory, the Rio club has also booked its place in the expanded Club World Cup in 2025. It was the fifth time in a row that Brazil claimed the Copa Libertadores.

As South American champions and winning finalists, Fluminense will receive $18 million in prize money. In total, they will have banked $27.5 million from their successful campaign. The final also generated the biggest ticketing revenue for a club match in Brazilian history at 31.7 million Reias ($6.47 million).

Both FIFA president Gianni Infantino and UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin attended the final.

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