The Semi-Final second legs took place on Wednesday and left many football fans across the world speechless. Both games were filled with goals, chaos and drama, making them a perfect advertisement for South American football
Palmeiras 0-2 River Plate
Palmeiras thought they had cemented their place in the final after winning the first leg 3-0, however, River Plate were not going to go down without a fight.
From the first minute the Argentinian side looked to overpower the opposition with a high press and quick passing play. Midfielders Nicolas De La Cruz and Ignacio Fernandez were constantly looking to create opportunities by driving at defenders or unlocking the defensive line with a perfect ball.
Palmeiras conceded a corner in the 28th minute which was whipped in by De La Cruz. As the ball was just arriving on the penalty spot Robert Rojas thundered it into the top corner with a stunning header. After the first goal went in it looked as though the River players believed they could overcome the odds and reach the final.
Then two minutes before half-time De La Cruz attempted a cross from the right wing which was really poorly defended by Palmeiras. The ball managed to bounce through the centre-back’s legs to striker Rafael Borre who was arriving at the other side of the six-yard-box. The Colombian comfortably clipped the ball into the bottom corner whilst goalkeeper Weverton did his best to put the forward off. The team from Brazil were crumbling under the pressure and their woes would continue in the second half.
River picked up from where they left off as they continued to dominate possession. Six minutes after the restart and River looked as though they had done the impossible. Another cross was sent into the Palmeiras box, this time from the left, it was met with a wonderful volley from wing-back Gonzalo Montiel. After the jubilation, not only shown by the players but by the coaching staff on the bench, VAR disallowed the goal. A River player was shown to have his left foot in an offside position during the build-up play which led to the goal.
Robert Rojas was the hero of the first half but the villain of the second. The Paraguayan was easily turned by Palmeiras forward Rony, instead of allowing the striker to run through he pulled him down. Rojas was given a second yellow and River Plate were down to 10 men. Although Los Millionairos were a man down they continued to play like they had nothing to lose.
With only 15 minutes left forward Matias Suarez decided to take matters into his own hands and drive his way into the box looking for an equaliser. Luan Garcia attempted to pickpocket the ball away from the oncoming striker but Suarez ended up on the floor and a penalty was given. VAR was once again called into action and on closer inspection it looked as though the Argentinian was falling to the ground before contact was made so the decision was overturned.
With 97 minutes now on the clock there was still enough time for another heart-stopping bit of drama. As a hopeful pass was sent into the box by River Plate a defender from the home side did his best to shield the ball but he was put under huge pressure from a player desperate for a place in the final. Both players went down and a free kick for the defensive team was given but the voice in the referee’s ear suggested that there was a potential penalty to be given. As the official made his way to the pitch-side monitor the stadium was silent. After what seemed like an eternity, the original decision stood and River’s last chance to reach the final had been denied.
River Plate put on a footballing masterclass but somehow Palmeiras managed to make it to the final by the skin of their teeth. The Verdao will now look to win the competition for the second time in their history, however, they will have to put in a much better performance in the final than they did in this game to have a chance at silverware.
Santos 3-0 Boca Juniors
The last leg of this tie was an extremely dull and lacklustre affair which resulted in a goalless draw. This time around the game was action-packed, fast-paced and chaotic.
Santos looked to take advantage of their opponents sluggish start with a shot coming off the post in the first minute.
On the 15 minute mark a shot towards the Boca goal seemed to come off a defenders hand, however, before a decision had to be made striker Diego Pituca pounced on the deflected ball and cooly placed it into the bottom corner.
Winger Jefferson Soteldo doubled the lead four minutes into the second half with a wonderful strike. The Venezuelan cut in from the left onto his right-foot and rocketed the ball into the roof of the net. During the chaos of the celebrations Santos coach, Cuca, revealed an eye catching t-shirt with the Virgin Mary front and centre.
Three minutes later a one-two led to Marinho making his way into the box and setting up his team mate, Lucas Braga, with an easy tap-in from just outside the six-yard-box. After the third, Boca lost their discipline and looked as though they also lost hope.
Midfielder Frank Fabra put what very little chance Boca had of reaching the final to bed after he got himself sent off for a brutal stamp to the chest of Marinho. The Argentinian side were now dropping deep to make sure that the result wasn’t going to be any more embarrassing than it already was.
18-year-old Santos wonderkid Kai Jorge looked to get his name on the scoresheet after he managed to latch onto a ball which put him through on goal. The shot he fired goal-wards was denied by the head of the Boca goalkeeper, Andrada.
Santos thoroughly deserve their place in the final after they brushed Carlos Tevez’s Boca Juniors aside. The Brazilian team will now be looking to win the competition for the first time since a young Neymar was in its ranks in 2011.
These two results have set up a fairytale final with the two most successful clubs in the history of Brazilian football competing for the biggest trophy on the continent in the most iconic stadium in the Brazil, the Maracana. This final has the makings of an all-time classic and is a must watch for any football fanatic. It is just unfortunate there will be no fans in attendance because the atmosphere would be electric. The final takes place on the 30th of January and it is broadcast for free on the BBC Sport app.