Breno Lopes scored in the ninth minute of injury time as Palmeiras won their second Copa Libertadores title on Saturday with a 1-0 victory over Brazilian rivals Santos at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.
Traditionally decided over two legs, for the second edition running the final delayed two months by the Covid-19 pandemic was played as a one-off contest, kicking off in the sweltering heat and lengthening shadows.
Breno came on as a late substitute and planted a magnificent header beyond Santos goalkeeper John deep into stoppage time to settle a scrappy encounter and earn Palmeiras a spot in next month’s Club World Cup in Qatar.
Santos, who last won the competition a decade ago when a teenaged Neymar scored in the final, missed out on the opportunity to become the first Brazilian club to lift the trophy for a fourth time. Despite the ban on supporters from the iconic 80,000-capacity Maracana stadium, the site of one of the city’s coronavirus field hospitals, local authorities agreed to grant entry to a few thousand invitees.
O Rio de Janeiro continua lindo… 🎶
— SE Palmeiras (@Palmeiras) January 30, 2021
Palmeiras, who held on to overcome River Plate in the semi-finals, were without the injured Gabriel Veron, the highly-rated 18-year-old linked to a number of Europe’s top clubs. As for Sao Paulo rivals Santos, who won two of their three Libertadores titles with Pele in the side in the early 1960s, in Kaio Jorge, 19, they have one of the country’s most exciting young strikers.
With attacking flair in limited display in the first half, it wasn’t until Santos midfielder Diego Pituca’s speculative drive on 76 minutes that either team genuinely threatened. Palmeiras keeper Weverton shovelled the strike away and a fizzing follow-up shot from Felipe Jonatan flashed narrowly wide.
Kaio Jorge then sent a tame overhead kick straight at Weverton, but with the game seemingly destined for extra time there was late drama after Santos coach Cuca was sent off for trying to stop Marcos Rocha from taking a quick throw-in.
Santos briefly lost focus as the initially alloted eight minutes of stoppage time elapsed, and Breno peeled off his marker, hanging in the air to head in a deep right-wing cross from Rony to spark jubilant Palmeiras celebrations.
It was Palmeiras’ first Copa Libertadores since 1999 and a very even, but dull contest was decided by a moment of magic and Cuca causing his team to get distracted by his red card.