Uruguayan giants Penarol reached the Copa Libertadores final after overcoming Argentinian domestic league leaders Velez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires in a dramatic, high quality match played at blistering pace that even the heartbroken Velez supporters stood to applaud.
Penarol had won 1-0 at home last week and that proved enough to clinch their passport to the two-legged final as they lost 2-1 in Argentina on Thursday but qualified thanks to the away goal.
Penarol’s midfielder Matias Mier surprised everybody in the Velez stadium in the 33rd minute, when he opened the scoring after a great set-up by Alejandro Martinuccio. Two goals up on aggregate with barely a half to play, it looked like their place was secure until they nearly collapsed.
We’re in the Libertadores finals, a place where this gigantic club hasn’t been for a while. Just before the break, Uruguayan keeper Sebastian Sosa could not catch the ball from a free-kick and Fernando Tobio grabbed the lost ball to equalise on the night. In the second half Velez kept pushing. Striker Juan Manuel Martinez set up Santiago Silva, who made it 2-1 and really gave the Argentinian side hope.
Just two minutes after that goal, though, Velez lost defender Fernando Ortiz, who received a second yellow card, but they did not give up. They almost made it when in the 75th minute, Penarol defender Guillermo Rodriguez handled the ball in the box, but Silva shot over the crossbar and missed the big chance. In the final minutes, Penarol defended resolutely to go through.
“We’re in the Libertadores finals, a place where this gigantic club hasn’t been for a while,??? Penarol forward Juan Manuel Olivera said. “We may not play the most beautiful football, but we have lots of heart, and we never give up. We started this tournament with a dream, and we’re only one step away from it.???
Penarol will play the two-legged final against Brazilian side Santos.