The Copa Libertadores is one of the most prestigious club tournaments in the world. It’s funny to think about how relatively new tournaments like the Libertadores (annually since 1960) and UEFA Champions League (since 1955 as European Cup; began Champions League format in 1992) are compared to the history of international football in the Olympics (1900) and World Cup (1930) as well as the domestic club leagues which have thrived even longer. Now in the first year of its sixth decade of existence, the Copa Libertadores is broadcast into 135 countries and available over the internet through countless portals in multiple languages.
Yet, unless you frequent the Spanish-language sports networks on television (and the increasing shift in America’s demographics means that it is becoming less and less “non-traditional” for sports fans in America to be watching soccer en Español) or are a loyal reader of this column, you may not have heard that the two-leg home-and-away final was last night. It may have been controversial, but Chivas Guadalajara of Mexico were given passage to the second round this year due to their 2009 ouster not on the field but due to H1N1 flu outbreak in their home country. They reached the final by plowing through Argentina’s 2009 Clausura champion Velez Sarsfield, Libertad of Paraguay (qualified as best aggregate finisher in Clausura and Apertura in 2009), and Universidad de Chile (2009 Apertura champion). They were host for the opening leg to Internacional, Brazil’s 2009 Serie A runner-up, picking up right where they left off when their 2009 campaign was abbreviated.
The winner of this tournament would be headed to the next FIFA Club World Cup, and things got off to a quick start. After the match began fifteen minutes late to work the kinks out of the floodlights in the Estadio Chivas, the new $150 million stadium with the synthetic turf located in the northwestern Guadalajara suburb of Zapopan, it was the visitors who were getting the better run of offensive opportunities in what proved to be a chippy first half. But despite all the chances, nothing was developing on the scoreboard to consummate their efforts. Kleber hit the crossbar in the fifth minute, botching a marvelous chance to go ahead early and deflate the home crowd. Alecsandro put the crossbar to work yet again in the 29th minute, another opportunity squandered.
The misses left the door open for Chivas to take the lead in the first half. After getting his team’s first shot of the game, an off-target attempt in stoppage time, Marco Fabian De la Mora fully redeemed himself right before World Cup referee Hector Baldassi blew his whistle for halftime. He lobbed a ball up into the box which found Mexican World Cup substitute Adolfo Bautista’s head. The 31-year-old striker knew exactly what to do with the service, guiding the ball past Internacional goalkeeper Renan to take the 1-0 lead into their locker room at the break. But despite having the home crowd firmly behind them, the lead wouldn’t last.
Internacional came right back out and applied the pressure once more, knowing that sooner or later they’d crack through. Just like the first half began, the second saw the Brazilians getting the majority of the opportunities. It looked frightfully like the previous evening’s friendly between the Brazilian national team against the Americans, where the depth of talent was illuminated in the course of the full 90 minutes. In fact, Chivas would get just one more shot off — Bautista couldn’t put the ball on target when he got his second chance in the 53rd minute. Instead it was Giuliano and Bolivar Guedes who reversed fortune for the visitors. First Giuliano connected with his head to beat Luis Ernesto Michel in the Mexican side’s net off a Kleber pass in the 72nd minute; then, four minutes later, Bolivar Guedes did the same off a pass from Indio.
Just like that, Internacional had the two away goals against a tough-to-beat team that still has plenty of talent and the potential to become the first Mexican champion of the Libertadores. But after sacrificing their chance to go into Porto Alegre up 1-0 in the aggregate score, Chivas Guadalajara now have an uphill battle to fight in attaining that rarefied status…
Guadalajara 1 - 2 Internacional
|Adolfo Bautista (45)||Giuliano (72)|
|Bolivar Guedes (76)|
|Shots (on Goal)||3(1)||8(5)|
|Time of Possession||0%||0%|