Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Copa Libertadores: Past meets present for 2011 final (+video)

Posted in South America Football by peterbein on June 14, 2011

Copa Libertadores logoThe 2011 Copa Libertadores final will see two of South America’s pioneering club sides take the competition back to its halcyon days of the 1960s. Uruguayan giants Peñarol are one of the grand old clubs of the continent having won South American football’s greatest club competition on five occasions, just two behind record champions Independiente. Their opponents Santos FC also have a rich history in the tournament having won back-to-back titles in 1962 and 1963 in the days of the legendary Pelé. The former of those two triumphs for Santos came at the expense of their upcoming opponents Peñarol and, for that reason alone, ensures an intriguing clash pitting the past with the present day.

Peñarol are back in the big time after reaching their first final since they last won the trophy back in 1987. In the group stage Peñarol finished second in Group 8 after a closely fought four-way battle for the two places saw them finish just one point behind group leaders LDU Quito and one and two points ahead of Argentinian sides Independiente and Godoy Cruz respectively. Their knockout adventure began in the Round of 16 with a difficult tie against defending champions Internacional Porto Alegre. Their task seemed all the more daunting after they only claimed a 1-1 draw at home in the first leg but somehow Peñarol emerged triumphant with a 2-1 victory in the Brazilians’ back yard. That 3-2 aggregate win saw them face Chilean champions Universidad Católica in the quarter-finals from which they progressed by the same aggregate score line. Argentinians Vélez Sársfield, who have just won their eighth domestic championship, stood between Peñarol and a place in the final and a tight affair was won via the away goals rule with a 1-0 home win for the Montevideo club followed by a 2-1 defeat in Argentina.The away goal from Matias Mier secured Peñarol a welcome return back into the Libertadores final after an absence of 24 years.

Santos FC were involved in Group 5 of the competition along with Paraguay’s Cerro Porteño, Chile’s Colo Colo and Venezuelan whipping boys Deportivo Tachira. A slow start to the tournament saw Santos pick up just two points from their first three games and an early exit from the competition looked a distinct possibility. However the Peixe managed to win their final three group matches to finish on equal points with Cerro Porteño whose superior goal difference ensured them the top place finish while Colo Colo trailed both teams by just two points. Santos’ first opponents in the knockout phase came from Mexico; Club America were defeated by the only goal in a tight two-legged tussle allowing Santos to meet surprise 2004 Libertadores winners Once Caldas in the last eight. Following a 1-0 win in Caldas’ home ground in Colombia, Santos held out by drawing the return fixture 1-1 to set up another double header with group rivals Cerro Porteño in the semi-finals. A tight home fixture for Santos was decided by Edu’s 43rd minute strike which they took to the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion for an eventful second leg which saw both teams share six goals between them in a 3-3 draw, thus ensuring Santos’ progression with a 4-3 aggregate victory taking them to their first Libertadores final since they lost out to Boca Juniors in 2003.

Much of the build up to this game has reflected upon the past as it has the present with history recalling that these teams met in the 1962 final. The Copa Libertadores was a much smaller tournament in those days with just ten teams participating. Santos got the better of Cerro Porteño and Deportivo Municipal in a mini-group before defeating Universidad Católica 2-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals. Peñarol, meanwhile, had a bye straight to the semi-finals of the tournament following their 1961 title win and they overcame the challenge of eternal rivals Nacional after a three game series in which each team won one game with the final game drawn. Peñarol went through having scored five goals to Nacional’s four in the three games and thus set up their famous encounter with Santos.

Santos FC were away in the first leg but came away with a 2-1 victory, Coutinho’s double strike cancelling out Alberto Spencer’s opener for Peñarol. In the second leg it was Peñarol’s turn to emerge triumphant with Spencer’s brace followed by a José Sasia winner in their 3-2 win on Brazilian soil. This set up a third and final game which was played in neutral Buenos Aires where an Omar Caetano own goal was followed by a brace from Pelé to seal a 3-0 win for Santos gifting them their first Libertadores title.

Could tournament top scorers Neymar (Santos) and Juan Manuel Oliveira (Peñarol) write themselves in the tournament’s history books and help seal their team’s next Libertadores triumph? The first leg will be played in Montevideo on June 15th with the return leg in Santos on June 22nd.


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