Pain for Boca and gain for River Plate in Spain

Pain for Boca and gain for River Plate in Spain

River Plate battled back from a goal down to beat arch Argentine rivals Boca Juniors 3-1 after extra-time in the rescheduled Copa Libertadores final second leg which was controversially played in Madrid after violence had seen the original game postponed.

Dario Benedetto put Boca ahead on at the end of a bruising first half at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

River Plate celebrate after winning the Copa Libertadores in Madrid.Credit:AP

But River, who also came back twice in the 2-2 draw in the first leg at Boca's Bombonera stadium, levelled in the 68th minute through striker Lucas Pratto after a superb team move.

River were given a huge advantage when Boca midfielder Wilmar Barrios was sent off in the third minute of extra-time and seized it thanks to a sizzling strike from Colombia international Juan Fernando Quintero in the 109th minute.

Gonzalo Martinez sealed victory, 5-3 on aggregate, at the death with a tap in after Boca's entire team had poured forward in search of an equaliser, giving River a fourth Libertadores title and denying Boca a record-equalling seventh.

A Boca fan reacts to the loss as she watches on television in Buenos Aires.Credit:AP

River's victory means they will represent South America in the Club World Cup that starts in the United Arab Emirates on December 12.

The game was moved 10,000 kilometres away from River's Monumental stadium to Madrid as Boca's team bus had been ambushed before the originally scheduled game, leaving several Boca players injured from the impact of the smashed windows and from tear gas that had been fired by police.

It meant that instead of a home game with the exclusive presence of River supporters, Real Madrid's Bernabeu was equally divided between fans of both sides, a highly unusual situation in the Copa Libertadores.

The final, the first in the 58 years of the competition to be played outside of Latin America, provoked furious protests from both clubs, their supporters and leading figures in Argentine soccer, such as 1978 World Cup winning coach Luis Cesar Menotti who called the switch "an aberration".

River had decried the loss of home advantage Boca had enjoyed in the first leg, while Boca claimed they should have been awarded the trophy by default, pointing to when they were thrown out of the competition in 2015 when River players were subjected to pepper spray at half-time.

Boca’s Leonarda Jara (left) and River Plate’s Javier Pinola in action.Credit:AP

There was also a deep sense of irony at the fact a competition named in honour of the liberators of south America was to be played in the home of their former rulers.

Despite the controversy, a total of 10,000 fans made the long journey over from Argentina for the occasion, with the nation's considerable expatriate communities across Europe (250,000 reside in Spain alone) also flooding in to the Spanish capital, creating a carnival atmosphere that was mostly cordial.

Spanish police had mounted the biggest ever security operation for a soccer match in the country, deploying over 4000 personnel including more than 2000 police officers.

The security costs were countered by a considerable windfall for the city, which local government officials put at an estimated minimum 55 million euros.


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