Corinthians Stifle Boca to Win First Copa Libertadores

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian club Corinthians finally won its first ever Copa Libertadores title on Wednesday, beating six-time champion Boca Juniors 2-0 to win the final 3-1 on aggregate. Corinthians won the title unbeaten over 14 matches of Latin America’s main club competition, having drawn Boca 1-1 last week in Buenos Aires.

Emerson opened the scoring in the 54th minute with a shot from close range after a free kick cross into the Boca Juniors area, then sealed the victory in a breakaway in the 72nd, sending a low shot into the far corner. Boca Juniors was playing in its 10th final but fell short in its bid to match fellow Argentine team Independiente as the most successful club in Libertadores history with seven titles.

Corinthians is Brazil’s second most popular club behind Flamengo and has five national titles, but had never had much success internationally until Wednesday. It won the inaugural FIFA Club World Cup in 2000, but only after it was invited as the host team in a competition which few of the international teams took seriously. It reached the final of the Copa Libertadores for the first time this year, and it did it by defeating defending champion Santos, with star striker Neymar, in the semifinals.

All of Corinthians’ main rivals in Brazil — Palmeiras, Sao Paulo and Santos — had won the competition at least once and the team’s failure to win the title had been giving opposing fans bragging rights for years.

“A team like Corinthians should’ve won the Copa Libertadores before,” Corinthians playmaker Danilo said. “We came into this final very focused and we played a great match to finally get it done.”

Corinthians’ defense was key again on Wednesday, not allowing Boca Juniors to threaten during most of the match. The Brazilian club finished the competition without a loss and allowed only four goals. When playing at the Pacaembu, Corinthians outscored its opponents 15-1.

“This group deserved this title,” Corinthians coach Tite said. “No team did more than we did, no one marked better, no one was more focused. This isn’t happening by luck, we deserved it.”

Both teams began cautiously and there were few scoring opportunities for either side in the first half. Corinthians playmaker Alex tried some long-range shots, while Boca had a few chances from corners. But Corinthians struck on a set piece early in the second half after a right-side free kick taken by Alex. Midfielder Jorge Henrique headed the ball backward and Danilo flicked it behind the defenders to Emerson, who calmly struck the ball past Boca goalkeeper Carlos Sebastian Sosa. Emerson increased the lead after an errant pass by Boca defender Rolando Schiavi. Emerson intercepted the ball and ran free toward the area, sliding a low shot past Sosa.

“This is worth all of our hard work,” midfielder Paulinho said. “Everyone deserves to be celebrating. We all knew how hard it was going to be to win the Copa Libertadores but we did it, and unbeaten, which is even more special.”

Boca Juniors goalkeeper Agustin Orion had to be replaced in the 33rd after injuring his left knee in a collision with teammate Leandro Somoza. Boca played without regular starting right back Facundo Roncaglia, whose contract expired after the first leg and the team was not able to come up with an insurance that would allow him to play an extra match. Boca Juniors had won three of its past four title games against Brazilian teams — Gremio in 2007, Santos in 2003 and Palmeiras in 2000. It was trying to win its fifth title in 12 years. It had also won the 2001 tournament, beating Mexico’s Cruz Azul in the final.

Boca Juniors, which hadn’t played in the previous two Copa Libertadores, reached the final by eliminating Universidad de Chile 2-0 on aggregate, winning at home and earning a scoreless draw in Chile. It was the eighth straight final to be decided in Brazil and the 13th overall between Argentine and Brazilian clubs, with Argentines winning nine times and Brazilians four. Wednesday marked the first Brazilian victory over Argentines since 1992.