Thursday, 16 July 2009

Champions of America!

Photo: Placar

Looking through some of the scribbled notes that I made at 2am this morning whilst watching the 2nd Leg of the Copa Libertadores Final one sentence caught my eye 'they'll [Estudiantes] do this'. Granted it's hardly the most radical prediction in the world given the scores were 0-0 at the time. I wrote it about 20 minutes into the game after Cruzeiro had expectedly seen most of the ball, the possesion though didn't really threaten Andújar's goal. Whenever the Brazilians attempted to build an attack it was efficiently dismantled by the Estudiantes midfield and they began to grow in confidence. Can Verón be held in any higher esteem by his adoring fans? Before this game it was difficult to see how - however a Man of the Match performance by the captain has secured his place in El Pincha folklore prompting his father to comment 'my son is the best player in the history of Estudiantes' Nepotism? Not at all, high praise from an integral member of the club's first golden era. In tandem with the rest of the midfield and in particular Enzo Pérez who was once again snapping at the heels of the opposition the Argentines took control of the first half.

Cruzeiro took the lead early into the second half, a long range shot by Henrique took a massive deflection off Desabato to fool Andújar and 60,000 Brazilians celebrated. Unable to capitalise on the goal Estudiantes played with composure and inventiveness with Verón the the lion heart in the middle. The equaliser was instigated by Verón who with typical vision slipped a great ball to who Christian Cellay and the resulting centre was turned in by Gaston Fernandez. Mauro Boselli had misfired with a couple of first half opportunities for Estudiantes but his winning goal was a textbook downward header again from the perfect Verón centre, ensuring that he ended the tournament outright topscorer. Seventeen minutes remained in which the 4000 visiting fans won the vocal battle in the stadium. Cruzeiro hit the angle of post and crossbar in the dying minutes but their onslaught never really materialised.

With Carlos Bilardo looking on approvingly in the stands Estudiantes were crowned Copa Libertadores Champions for the fourth time after a 39 year wait. Remember too this is coach Alex Sabella's first managerial role after taking over earlier this year - in Belo Horizonte his team played the perfect game, composed, patient and above all together.

A difficult year for Argentine sides in the Copa Libertadores ends in well deserved victory for Estudiantes.

Hasta luego!

Relive the glory: