Goalkeeper Sergio Romero stopped Palmeiras at Allianz Parque, in the west of São Paulo, and took Boca Juniors to the Libertadores final. After a goalless draw a week ago at the Bombonera stadium, in Buenos Aires, the second game was decided on penalties, with the Argentine archer playing a decisive role.
Boca is the competition’s second biggest winner, with six wins (1977, 1978, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2007), and will now try to equal Independiente’s record of seven cups.
In this Thursday’s match, the first half had few opportunities on both sides. In one of them, with Weverton’s first goal, Boca managed to open the scoring.
Striker Merentiel, on loan from Palmeiras to the Argentine team, made a good move on the left, got rid of defender Gustavo Gómez’s marking and crossed for Edinson Cavani to complete into the goal at 22 in the first half. It was the Uruguayan’s first goal in the Libertadores.
In the second half, Palmeiras returned more aggressive, with attackers Endrick and Kevin replacing Artur and Marcos Rocha. The Brazilian team managed to reach Romero’s goal with danger, mainly with striker Rony.
The greater volume of the alviverde game also resulted in an expulsion. In the 21st minute of the final stage, Marcos Rojo received a second yellow card for harshly tackling Ron.
A few minutes later, Uruguayan Piquerez risked a shot from outside the area. The ball deflected off Boca defenders and made it difficult for the Argentine goalkeeper to defend, tying the match.
Palmeiras continued to press and only failed to increase the score thanks to Romero’s good performance. The goalkeeper made important saves in the second half of the final stage, stopping Rony’s bicycle inside the area, a charge from Mayke after a good pass from Endrick and a shot from striker Kevin after a counterattack from Palmeiras.
On penalties, Boca’s players were more efficient in taking the penalty and made it 4-2. Veiga and Gómez lost to Palmeiras, stopping at Boca’s goalkeeper. On the Argentine side, only Cavani missed his shot.
In an interview after the game, coach Abel Ferreira stated that in both games Palmeiras had many more opportunities, “but football is cruel”. “Football is like that, sometimes it’s cruel for us and other times, wonderful, like winning the first Libertadores and the second.”
Abel also praised the performance of the opposing goalkeeper. “He was the player who made the difference in Palmeiras not being in the final of another Libertadores today.”
Boca now faces Fernando Diniz’s Fluminense in the final, who also temporarily leads the Brazilian team until the possible arrival of the Italian Carlo Ancelotti, currently at Real Madrid, in 2024.
Tricolor das Laranjeiras qualified for the decision on Wednesday (4) after achieving a comeback in the last minutes against Internacional, at Beira Rio, in Porto Alegre.
The final is scheduled for November 4th at Maracanã, in Rio.
With this Thursday’s result, Boca expands to four the opportunities in which they eliminated Palmeiras in a decisive phase of the continental tournament.
The first of these was in the 2000 final. That year, the team led by Luiz Felipe Scolari defended the title won the previous year, but succumbed to the team led by star Juan Román Riquelme in the penalty shootout in a packed Morumbi.
Boca eliminated Palmeiras again in the Libertadores semi-finals in 2001, again on penalties, and at the same stage in 2018, after beating the Brazilian team 2-0 in Argentina and drawing 2-2 in São Paulo.
To reach this year’s final, Boca qualified first in the group stage, leaving behind Deportivo Pereira, from Colombia, Colo-Colo, from Chile, and Monagas, from Venezuela.
In the knockout stages, however, the Argentine team did not win any matches.
In the round of 16, in a fierce clash against Nacional, from Uruguay, they won the decision on penalties after a 0-0 draw away from home and a 2-2 draw at Bombonera. In the quarterfinals, they beat Racing, from Argentina, also on penalties, after two 0-0 draws.
The winner of the clash between Boca and Fluminense, in addition to taking US$ 18 million (R$ 93 million) for the title, can also face the Champions League champion, Manchester City, in the Club World Cup.
Of the six cups raised so far, in four the Argentines defeated a Brazilian team in the final: Cruzeiro in 1977, Palmeiras in 2000, Santos in 2003 and Grêmio in 2007.
Despite the victorious record, the Argentine team had suffered bitter defeats in the competition over the last few years.
In the last decision they reached, in 2018, they were defeated by rival River Plate 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium, home of Real Madrid, in Spain.
The game was taken to Europe after the bus carrying Boca players was stoned by River Plate fans upon arrival at the Monumental de Núñez, their rival’s home.
In 2021, Boca had striker Tévez and reached the semi-final stage, but ended up losing to Santos 3-0 at Vila Belmiro in a game that featured an inspired Soteldo and Marinho.
The victory in the 2023 edition of the Libertadores could therefore represent the first for one of the most successful teams in the tournament in 16 years, making peace with the fanatical “xeneize” fans.