- Boca see off Palmeiras to close in on seventh title
- River Plate account for Gremio and eye their fourth
- FIFA Club World Cup 2018 awaits the winner
River Plate, semi-final victors against defending champions Gremio in Porto Alegre, and Boca Juniors, who came through against Palmeiras in Sao Pablo, will face off in the final of the 2018 Copa Libertadores. The match will provide a fascinating fresh edition of Argentina’s superclásico, and is sure to captivate football fans across the world.
For Los Xeneizes this will be the 11th Libertadores final in the club’s history. With seven wins, they are just one short of equalling Independiente, currently the record holder for most Libertadores titles. For their part, Los Millonarios will be contesting their sixth decider and hoping to be crowned continental champions for the fourth time.
Results of semi-final second legs (aggregate)
River’s victory bordered on the miraculous: until the 81st minute they were losing 1-0 and in need of two goals to progress to the final. A Santos Borre header levelled the score on the night and gave hope to the visitors, who eventually prevailed thanks to a deftly executed Gonzalo Martinez penalty deep in stoppage time.
Boca needed another vital contribution from substitute Dario Benedetto to calm their nerves at a critical moment. An early strike from Ramon Abila appeared to give the visitors an unassailable lead, but Palmeiras threatened a comeback with goals from Luan and Gustavo Gomez (penalty).
But up stepped Benedetto, just as he had done in the first leg, to make it 2-2 on the night with a sumptuous right-foot strike to make the tie safe.
When it comes to knockout rounds in international club competitions, Marcelo Gallardo’s River have been extremely impressive, prevailing in 20 of their 24 head-to-heads. Even Boca have been among their victims, going down to their arch-rivals in the semi-final of the 2014 Copa Sudamericana.
As well as being the only unbeaten side left in the competition, Gremio went into their semi-final second leg having never lost a home game in the Copa Libertadores in which they had taken the lead. In the 64 previous instances they had done that, they won 62 of them and drew two.
After going almost a year with a goal due to injury, Benedetto scored three of Boca’s four strikes in their semi-final. The player they call El Pipa now boasts and average of 1.37 goals a game for Los Xeneizes (38 in 52).
Boca will play the second leg of the final away from home, which is often considered a disadvantage. However, it may not unduly worry Los Xeneizes, who prevailed on the road in the last 16, quarter-final and semi-final of this year’s competition, winning in Asuncion and drawing in Belo Horizonte and Sao Pablo.