River Plate’s 3rd win of Copa Libertadores title
Argentina’s River Plate defeated Mexico’s Tigres 3-0 on Wednesday to win an unlikely third Copa Libertadores title — and the club’s first in nearly 20 years.
Striker Lucas Alario scored with a header in the 45th minute and midfielder Carlos Sanchez added to the lead by converting a penalty kick in the 75th.
Defender Ramiro Funes Mori then sealed the victory under pouring rain off a corner kick in the 79th, giving the storied club an improbable title after a difficult start to the Latin American competition.
River Plate had the worst campaign among the 16 teams that advanced to the knockout stage, only managing to make it that far with some help from Tigres, which beat Peruvian club Juan Aurich in the final round of group stage matches to help River secure its spot.
River Plate then reached the quarterfinals after rival Boca Juniors was eliminated from the tournament because its fans sprayed players with an eye irritant believed to be either pepper spray or mace in the teams’ second-leg match at Boca’s La Bombonera Stadium.
River Plate had won the first leg 1-0 at home and the return game was scoreless when it was interrupted at halftime.
River had to overcome more difficulties in the semis. The club lost the first leg 1-0 at home to two- time defending Brazilian champion Cruzeiro, before rebounding with a stunning 3-0 win in Brazil.
“I’m incredibly happy for the fans who are enjoying this party,” said River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo, a midfielder with the River team that won the 1996 Copa Libertadores title. “And we are going for more.”
With the title on Wednesday, River Plate secured a place in FIFA’s Club World Cup in Japan in December.
River and Tigres drew 0-0 in the first leg of the final in Mexico last week.
River Plate, which won its first Copa Libertadores in 1986, is Argentina’s most successful club with 34 titles. This year’s triumph, however, comes only four years after it was relegated to the Argentine second division for the first time, marking one of the worst periods in the club’s history.
Tigres was trying to give Mexico its first Copa Libertadores trophy. Cruz Azul was runner-up in 2001 and Chivas of Guadalajara lost the 2010 final.
Argentina’s River Plate players hold the trophy aloft while they celebrate winning the Copa Libertadores final soccer match against Mexico’s Tigres in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, Aug. 6.