Gabigol leads Flamengo to 3rd Copa Lib title

Gabigol leads Flamengo to 3rd Copa Lib title

6: 38 PM ET

  • Associated Press

Flamengo marched unbeaten to a third Copa Libertadores title after topping Athletico-PR 1-0 in the all-Brazilian final on Saturday.

Gabriel Barbosa starred in the final yet again by producing the only goal in a half-full Metropolitano Stadium in Ecuador.

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Flamengo also won in 1981 and 2019, the latter with two goals by Barbosa in the 2-1 final victory against Argentina’s River Plate. Barbosa stated after the match that it was as special as his first goal in a final.

Barbosa, considered to have a slim chance of playing for Brazil in the World Cup, also netted the Rio de Janeiro club’s only goal in the final last year in the loss to Brazilian rival Palmeiras.

Barbosa’s latest goal was hatched in the 43rd minute when Athletico defender Pedro Henrique was booked for a second time after a harsh tackle. The incident allowed Flamengo more space to attack and the goal was scored in the final seconds of the first period.

Everton Ribeiro crossed low from the right, and Barbosa was able to push the ball into the net. Flamengo won all its matches, beating out Tolima in Colombia, Brazil’s Corinthians, and Velez Sarsfield in Argentina.

Flamengo striker Pedro, who is expected to be in Brazil’s World Cup squad, was the Copa’s leading goal-scorer with 12 in 13 matches. Dorival Jr., Flamengo’s coach, said Barbosa played on the flanks to provide food for Pedro and was crucial in securing the title.

“He was decisive as the top goal scorer in one title and now as a player for the team,” said Dorival Jr. who took over in July, after Paulo Sousa, Portuguese coach, was fired. “Gabriel worked for us even more than he did in 2019. “

Flamengo, with former Chelsea and Brazil centre-back David Luiz anchoring their defence, enjoyed 73% of possession and created 15 chances, although only four on target, as they won South America’s equivalent of Europe’s Champions League.

Athletico, chasing their first Copa Libertadores title, couldn’t deliver a perfect sendoff for coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. The former World Cup-winning manager said in the buildup he’s stepping down at age 73. He previously won the Copa with boyhood club Gremio in 1995 and with Palmeiras in 1999.

Local authorities in Ecuador struggled to sell all 60,000 tickets for the final. Guayaquil is about 6,000 kilometres (4,000 miles) from Rio and Curitiba.

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