Belo Horizonte (Brazil) (AFP)
Defending champions Palmeiras booked their places in the Copa Libertadores final on Tuesday, securing a 1-1 fight against Brazilian rivals Atletico Mineiro to advance on away goals.
A second-half winger Dudu equalizer called off Atletico Mineiro’s opener against Chile international Eduardo Silva to send Palmeiras to the November 27 final of the flagship South American club football tournament.
After the first leg in Sao Paulo ended 0-0 last week, Atletico Mineiro looked set to assert the home advantage in Tuesday’s second leg at Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte.
But it was Palmeiras who came closest to scoring in an austere first half, with the forward setting off the offside trap in the second minute to test Atletico keeper Everson with a fierce strike.
Atletico’s best chance came 25 minutes when Joaquin Piquerez grabbed a long ball forward and sent a whistling shot past the post.
The game came to life in the second half, however, with former Atletico international striker Hulk forcing a nice save from Weverton.
On the other end, a quick counterattack from Palmeiras saw Everson once again save Atletico from Rony’s well-hitting effort.
The first goal came in the 52nd minute, when Jair found space on the right flank and crossed the six-yard zone for Vargas to go home for 1-0.
The goal heralded a period of domination for Atletico, and Vargas missed a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 in the 56th minute, playing a skillful 1-2 to split Palmeiras’ defense before shooting aside. .
Three minutes later, Palmeiras almost equalized, Rony taking advantage of a defensive error by Nathan Da Silva to drag his shot past the upright.
It was Rony’s last contribution of the match, the starting striker for 19-year-old Gabriel Veron.
The teenage substitute made an instant impact, using his pace and athleticism to reach the signing and lining up for Dudu to take the lead to 1-1 in 68 minutes.
The goal turned out to be decisive and Atletico failed to find the winner against a resolute Palmeiras.
Palmeiras, who claim to become the first consecutive Copa Libertadores winner since Boca Juniors in 2000-2001, will face either Brazilian club Flamengo or Ecuadorian Barcelona SC in the final.
Flamengo led the tie in the semi-final 3-1 ahead of Wednesday’s second leg.
© 2021 AFP