For the first time in their history, Corinthians have become champions of the Libertadores Cup after winning the final against Boca Juniors with an overall score of 3-1 (1-1 and 2-0). It was clear that this last match of this year´s tournament confronted two classic teams in South American football. For the ‘xeneize’ team (Boca) it was the tenth final (six titles won) whilst the ‘timao’ team (Corinthians) were facing their first final of this tournament. In the end, history changed and we now have a new team in the champions ranking.
In the first leg, played a week ago in the legendary stadium of La Bombonera in Buenos Aires, Boca started the game with a 1-4-4-2 formation, with a midfield in diamond shape, with Somoza as a holding midfielder, Erviti and Ledesma as wingers and Riquelme playing behind the two strikers, Silva and Mouche. Corinthians, for their part, displayed a 1-4-2-3-1 formation with Ralf and Paulinho as holding midfielders, Alex between the lines and Emerson, Danilo and Henrique constantly exchanging their positions. Boca started the game with intensity, creating some chances from set pieces, but Corinthians were progressively feeling more comfortable on the pitch and ended up controlling most of the first half by creating superiority in midfield and playing quite easily between the lines. Boca, instead, were quite dependant on Riquelme but he was well defended by the Brazilian defence. As an alternative, they tried to play long balls to Silva and always found Erviti’s determination to go forward on the left wing; this was the biggest threat for the Brazilians in the first half, always trying to exploit spaces left behind the right full back Alessandro.
After a first half where both teams had spent time weighing up each other and focussed on avoiding mistakes rather than attacking the rival, the second half started in the same way, with Boca controlling the game but with more depth on the right wing and with Riquelme and Ledesma much more active and participative in attack. As the second half progressed Boca started to create chances (Riquelme, Mouche, etc.) whilst Corinthians were quite disorganised in defence and sloppy in attack. And in the 73rd minute the first goal arrived for Boca. Mouche delivered the ball into the box for Roncaglia to score after some rebounds and a clear handball by a Brazilian defender. In the last minutes of the game Corinthians launched some dangerous counter attacks and in one of them Romarinho, in the first ball he touched after replacing Danilo, scored to level the match. Boca kept on fighting until the end with the left full back Clemente Rodriguez going forward with determination getting into the spaces left by Erviti, who tended to go inside. In added time, Clemente delivered a cross that Viatri (who had substituted Silva) headed to the cross bar much to the fans´ desperation. In the end, the score was left at 1-1 with everything to be decided in the second leg in Sao Paulo.
In the second game both coaches decided to keep the same teams and formations they had in the first game with the exception of Franco Sosa who substituted Roncaglia as the right full back for the Argentineans. Everything was still to be decided in the stadium Pecaembu in Sao Paulo. Both teams showed from the beginning how important the match was for them by focussing on not making defensive mistakes and making some hard tackles. The Brazilians were very organised in defence, conceding the possession of the ball to the Argentineans and taking them to commit unforced errors. During the first half there were no clear chances to score a goal for neither team. Corinthians’ keeper Cassio wasn’t tested, and the Brazilian side were trying to play with their four attacking players between the lines in an attempt to surprise the Argentinean defence. But a few long distance shots by Alex were not enough. The first half ended with no particular incidents apart from the injury of Boca’s goalkeeper Orion, who was replaced by Sebastian Sosa.
In the second half Emerson emerged as the key player of the game. Just eight minutes after half time Corinthians scored from a set piece: Alex took a diagonal free kick with his left foot for Emerson to score the first goal of the game after some rebounds inside the box. With half an hour to finish the game, Boca’s coach Falcioni introduced some offensive changes: Cvitanich replaced Ledesma, and the initial 1-4-4-2 changed into a 1-4-2-3-1 with Siva in front, Mouche and Cvitanich as wingers and Riquelme between the lines in an effort to create some superiority in the final third at risk of losing the control of the midfield. For their part, the Brazilians were quite happy giving the ball to the Argentineans and launching dangerous counter attacks every time they regained the ball. Minutes later, Boca’s Schiavi gave the ball away in the midfield; Emerson took the ball and scored the second goal after beating Sosa in a 1 v 1. Just before this, Erviti could have scored after a set piece taken by Riquelme, but he missed the target in the only clear chance that Boca had during the whole game. The score didn´t change and Corinthians won their first Libertadores Cup of their history.