Palmeira slipped in the Brazilian final, fortunately the River Plate didn’t advance until the second round. Meanwhile, Santos beat Boca Juniors 3-0 to preserve their chance of winning a fourth Libertadores title, something few would have predicted a few weeks ago.
– Vickery: The conquest of Palmeiras is utter chaos.
The club is bankrupt and can’t sign new ones. The president was charged with mismanagement and relations between actors and directors were strained. There have been outbreaks of coronavirus and injuries.
Nevertheless, on the 30th. January at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro against Palmeiras, the spiritual home of the Pele generation that put Santos on the map in the 1960s.
Santos’ secret was courage in decisive moments. Coach Cook remembers the 2018 season, which culminated in a final between Buenos Aires and River Boca.
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One Brazilian team after another – including his own Santos in an earlier period – was knocked out after being too cautious. Forced to give the youngsters a chance, the 2020-21 team was aggressive with and without the ball. In the previous round, they defeated their compatriots Gremio by disrupting the latter’s passing rhythm with a good midfield press. The key is the quick combination of centre-back Luan Peres and the remarkable Lucas Verissimo, who is quick on the pitch and assured of the ball.
Santos almost lost both games before the match against Boca. Luan Perez is on loan in Bruges, Belgium. His loan expired at the end of the year, and he had to rush to renegotiate its terms. And Lucas Verissimo was promised a move abroad. An agreement was reached with Benfica, who eventually decided to wait until February.
Santos was able to build his attacks on this base. Right-back Marinho made an immediate impact in the first minute when he entered the area with his left foot and fired a mini-shot that landed at the far post. However, they quickly took the lead – thanks to the number of players who put them back in front. There were five in the box when midfielder Diego Pituka scored. The ball was worked from right to left and Pituca played with the small Venezuelan left-handed player Yeferson Soteldo.
His shot was blocked by the hand of a defender. But before he had time to discuss the punishment, Pituka detoured through the door. Santos had a lead, but was vulnerable. The road-target rule beneficiary Boca. She’s going to miss the draw. A new phase of the game began, with Boca having a lot of possession, but not creating much danger.
Coach Miguel Angel Russo took advantage of the break to refocus. He has made two changes, the most important of which is the introduction of the dynamic Nico Capaldo in central midfield. But deep down, Santos wasn’t waiting to see how the game would play out. They press again, score on the front foot, try to win and break the ball.
Three minutes after the break, they made a mistake on the halfway line and Soteldo burst in and fired a beautiful shot into the top corner. Boca were still in a frenzy when Marinho played a one-two with young forward Cayo Jorge and filled in for Lucas Braga’s cross. And Boca were even more upset after Frank Fabra vented his frustration with a brutal kick to Marinho and was sent off. In half the cases, the tie was intriguing.
Within ten minutes of the restart, it was effectively over. The Boca defense, which had conceded just three times in the last 11 games this season, was broken three times in less than an hour. Boca did its best to catch the wind. But a return never seemed likely, which is particularly sad for Captain Bock.
Carlos Tevez was desperate to win this trophy to honor his great friend Diego Maradona. And there was enough in the game to remind him of his own career. The defining year for Tevez was 2003, when Boca moved him from playmaker to forward. He lived up to his virtue, got the best out of him and helped Boca win the Libertadores by beating Santos in the final with Tevez in goal. Some seventeen and a half years later, he couldn’t show up.
In the race between athlete and time, there is only one winner – the young Santos team is in the finals.