Palmeiras and Santos of Brazil will contest the final of the Copa Libertadores after both sides came through their semi-finals against River Plate and Boca Juniors from Argentina.© Provided by CBS Sports
In the first of this week’s two semi-finals, both played in Sao Paulo, Palmeiras were beaten 2-0 by River but their three-goal first leg lead from Buenos Aires saw them advance 3-2 on aggregate over the two legs.
Robert Rojas opened the scoring for the Argentine giants at Allianz Parque on the half hour and was later sent off for two second half yellow cards while Rafael Santos Borre made it two before half-time but there was to be no third goal to level the tie for Marcelo Gallardo’s men.
“What my players did here made me proud, considering the position we were in and the way they handled themselves,” said the 44-year-old post-match. Moments like these make me appreciate having chosen to coach.
“I can only thank my players for their effort here which was worthy of the professional and I wish Palmeiras luck in the final.”
Santos’ clash with Boca was less of a contest by the end with the hosts blowing their visitors out of the water with a 3-0 win at Estadio Urbano Caldeira that also saw the Argentines finish with one man less.
Opportunist Diego Pituca was on target in the first half as the referee waved play on for Peixe before Yeferson Soltedo’s rocket and Lucas Braga’s quickfire third within six minutes of the restart killed the tie for Cuca’s men before Boca’s Frank Fabra was shown a straight red card.
“When I arrived, I told people that we would reach the Libertadores final,” said the 57-year-old tactician after the final whistle. “I talked so much that I was like a broken record. I said that we had to win and not draw here. I felt it from the first day. I feel an unusual sense of satisfaction.”
Both results mean that there will be a first all-Brazilian Copa Libertadores final since Internacional beat Sao Paulo in 2006 with it being a derby to boot with Palmeiras and Santos’ rivalry known as the Classico da Saudade.
Palmeiras have one title to their name from back in 1999 when they beat Colombia’s Deportivo Cali while Santos have won it three times with their most recent success being in 2011 when they beat Penarol of Uruguay.
Santos’ Kaio Jorge and Palmeiras pair Luiz Adriano and Rony have all scored five goals with Barcelona SC’s Fidel Martinez this edition’s top scorer with eight ahead of the Estadio Maracana final at the end of this month.