The Argentinian giants thought they had nailed it. A bizarre goal by defender Facundo Roncaglia gave them the lead in the middle of the second half of the Libertadores Cup final first leg, in Buenos Aires. But five minutes from the end a player who was practically unknown five days ago scored for Corinthians to make history at La Bombonera. With a classy chip-in, Romarinho (no, he is not a son of Romário's) took the gridlocked decision to Pacaembu Stadium in Sao Paulo next Wednesday.
If Boca Juniors win they will become the greatest Copa Libertadores champions ever, with seven trophies, tying alongside Independiente – a fading local force. As for Corinthians - the second most popular side in Brazil and a club rich enough to make £40 million offers for Carlos Tévez - it would be their first continental trophy. The away goal criteria does not apply for the final, which is split over two legs. The Brazilian outfit earned the right to play at home in the decider for having the best record in this year’s tournament.
The home side had the best chances of the first leg, that ended 1-1. Playmaker Juan Román Riquelme worked well in spite of Corinthians' tough defence. Even so, his colleagues didn't help much. At the last minute, striker Dario Cvitanich wasted a chance that he dragged away from the post. Other opportunities were spared, though the Brazilian keeper Cassio worked very little. Both sides complained a bit about the Chilean referee Enrique Osses, but he had no interference on the result.
About 50 million supporters are involved in this South American face-off. In Argentina, 20 million fans support Boca. In Brazil, 30 million root for Corinthians (not to mention all the rivals who want them to lose and not get to play Chelsea at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan). Boca has won three Libertadores Cups in their neighbour’s country: in 2000 they beat Palmeiras in a penalty shootout, in 2004 their victim was Santos and in 2007 they thrashed Gremio in the final. However, Corinthians look set to offer a tougher challenge for the Argentinians. The second leg of the final is on Wednesday July 4th.
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