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Gabigol wins Copa Libertadores for Flamengo in dramatic finale

Pin Gabigol single handedly gave Flamengo the Copa Libertadores versus River Plate. AFP
Gabigol single handedly gave Flamengo the Copa Libertadores versus River Plate. AFP

Gabigol wins Copa Libertadores for Flamengo in dramatic finale

Paul Singh by Paul Singh @besoccer_com - 0 6,734

Two goals from Gabriel Barbosa in the 89th minute and 92nd minute gave Flamengo a 2-1 victory over River Plate in the Copa Libertadores final. Rafael Santos Borre had put the Argentines ahead at the Estadio Monumental in Lima.

Two goals in the closing stages gave Flamengo a 2-1 win over River Plate in the Copa Libertadores final. When River looked set to defend their title, Gabigol popped up to break the 'Millionarios' hearts. 

River Plate had started the better in the first ever one off final and took the lead after just 15 minutes. Nacho Fernandez's cross led to a mix up between Gerson and Arao and Santos Borre took advantage to fire home. Flamengo struggled to find their game in the first half and Matias Suarez saw shot deflected behind a corner and Exequiel Palacios also threatened the Flamengo goal. 

River went into half-time in complete control and Gabigol had hardly got a touch of the ball. Flamengo did not even have a shot on target and although River only had a couple of chances, Gallardo's men were very happy going into the break. That all changed in the second half though

Gabigol had the first pop of the second half before Palacios and Nicolas De la Cruz failed to hit the target at the other end. The game was much more open and Flamengo became more dangerous as time went on.

Twelve minutes into the second half, the Brazilians somehow did not level. Henrique attacked, he cut it back into the box from the byline, De Arrascaeta missed his kick and Gabigol saw his shot blocked by De La Cruz's elbow. Then Everton was denied by the goalie on the rebound.  The VAR checked De la Cruz's handball, but deemed his arm to be in a natural position

Both sides continued to have the odd chance as Flamengo were desperate for an equaliser. De Arrascaeta even tried an ambitious overhead kick 14 minutes from time, but could not connect. Pratto then hit wide for River at the other end before Pinola made a vital interception to prevent Gabigol's pass reaching Henrique. 

River then should have killed the game when Matias Suarez dispossessed FIlipe Luis in his own box and Suarez fed Palacios, but Palacios smacked it over the goal. The defending champions were left to rue that miss when Gabigol made it 1-1 in the 89th minute. Henrique found De Arrascaeta from the edge of the box and he squared for Gabriel Barbosa. River wanted offside, but Gabigol stayed behind the ball. 

Then when everyone was thinking of extra time, Gabigol scored again. A long hopeful punt forward was not dealt with by Pinola and Gabigol pounced to fire home from the edge of the box. The crowd went wild and he took off his shirt to celebrate it. He had just turned the game on its head in the space of three minutes in an extraordinary turn of events

There was hardly time to kick off, but River threw one last ball into the box, but Lucas Pratto could only head it straight to Diego Alves in the Flamengo goal. River's frustration got the better of them as Palacios was sent off for stepping on Henrique's leg when he was down on the ground by the touchline. Both sets of players got involved and Gabigol was also given his marching orders. He will not care though as the damage had already been done.

A draw would have probably been a fair result, but Flamengo's main striker had other ideas. It was a thrilling end to the first ever one off Copa Libertadores final and River Plate will take a long time to get over what happened

Paul Singh

Paul Singh

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