Buenos Aires Times

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Independiente clinch Copa Sudamericana title in Rio

A 1-1 draw with Flamengo on Wednesday night in Rio de Janeiro gave the Argentine side a 3-2 victory on aggregate and their second title in the competition.

Thursday 14 December, 2017
Independiente player Diego Rodríguez, top, celebrates with his teammates after they clenched the Copa Sudamericana championship title, after a 1-1 draw with Flamengo at Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro last night.
Independiente player Diego Rodríguez, top, celebrates with his teammates after they clenched the Copa Sudamericana championship title, after a 1-1 draw with Flamengo at Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro last night. Foto:AP-Silvia Izquierdo

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Independiente are the Copa Sudamericana champions, after El Rojo defeated Flamengo in Rio last night to secure the second most prestigious trophy in South America.

A 1-1 draw with the Brazilian side on Wednesday night in the Maracanã gave the Argentine side a 3-2 victory on aggregate and their second title in the competition.

The winners of Copa Sudamericana secure a spot in the next edition of Copa Libertadores, the region's most prestigious competition.

With the support of more than 54,000 fans in an overpacked Maracanã, Flamengo striker Lucas Paqueta opened the scoring meters away from the line in the 29th minute after a low cross from defender Rever.

The Brazilians did not celebrate long. A controversial penalty allowed 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco to tie the match in the 36th. The second half gave the Brazilians two clear chances to score, but Independiente held on to win its first continental title since it was relegated in 2013 from Argentina's top-flight division.

"We showed we deserved the title during all our campaign, today was no different," an emotional Barco told journalists on the pitch. On its way to the title, Independiente eliminated Argentina's Atletico Tucumán and Paraguay's Nacional and Libertad until they met Flamengo in the final.

Barco, one of the best players of the tournament, is leaving the club to play at Major League Soccer, for Atlanta. He could have played his last match for Independiente at the Maracanã.

"I never imagined I could leave Independiente, but now all I want to do is to celebrate this title and thank fans for their support all those years," the youngster said.

The final was surrounded by trouble, with hundreds of Flamengo fans breaking into the Maracanã and attacking Independiente supporters on nearby streets. Police used stun grenades to calm the situation. Since Tuesday night more than 50 Flamengo fans were detained in incidents with Independiente followers. Independiente fans were also allegedly filmed making racist gestures toward locals.

After the final, Independiente tweeted and referenced the Flamengo fans who lit fireworks to try and disrupt the team's sleep.

"We are sorry that you are feeling sleepy. Maybe you should have gone to bed earlier yesterday. Football is decided on the pitch. We know a lot about it," the club said on Twitter. "Have more respect with the King of Cups."

Coach Ariel Holan, who spent most of his career working at field hockey teams, criticised the animosity involving the match.

"This title is a dream to me. But these problems off the pitch need to be eradicated. Not only in Brazil, but all over Latin America," he said.

Flamengo coach Reinaldo Rueda said his team lacked the balance to win.

"We let the emotions of opening the score betray us," Rueda said.

- AP

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