Plagued by chaos, irony, protest, Copa Libertadores will finally be decided in Madrid
Nothing can be taken for granted at this point, but the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final will be played, at last, today in Madrid.
By then, though, the game, which in terms of global profile is the biggest in South American history, will have come to seem almost irrelevant, si.com reported.
It has become instead an extraordinary metaphor, a vehicle for exposing the competing forces that shape, for better and mainly worse, the modern sport.
How else, after all, could it be that the final of a competition named after the revolutionaries who freed South America from Spanish rule in the 19th century wound up being played in Madrid?
A brief recap: Two years ago, under new president Alejandro Dominguez, CONMEBOL decided it had to take action to try to elevate the Copa Libertadores. Dominguez was clear that closing the gap on the Champions League was impossible, but he could at least run the competition along similar lines and try to raise its profile. The two-legged final will be replaced next season by a one-off showpiece. The climax was moved to November, keeping it apart from the Champions League final and, thanks to the varying daylight Demar Derozan recorded 36 points, nine assists and eight rebounds to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 133-120 comeback victory over the visiting Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
Lamarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl each had 14 points and eight rebounds for the Spurs, who avenged a Wednesday loss to the Lakers, Sky Sports reported.
Patty Mills also scored 14 points for San Antonio, and Davis Bertans added 13.
Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli contributed 11 points apiece and saving times, giving it a time slot more comfortable to a global audience. And the regulation that stipulated if two teams from the same country reached the last four they had to play each other in the semifinal was lifted.
Dominguez saw a Boca Juniors vs. River Plate final as the vindication of his plan – the two biggest teams in South American football, based just eight miles apart, their rivalry legendary on the final stage.
The Libertadores suddenly had global appeal. There were a reported 2,500 international media requests for accreditation to the first leg, played at Boca Juniors’ home, La Bombonera.
But chaos soon took over. Torrential rain meant the first leg, which ultimately finished 2-2, had to be postponed for 24 hours. It seemed like bad luck but turned out to be a portent of what was to come. On its way to the second leg at El Monumental, Boca’s team bus was attacked by River fans. Windows were smashed and tear gas, seemingly used by police to clear crowds, overwhelmed players, some of whom had also been struck by broken glass.
The second leg was initially postponed by an hour, then by two and a quarter hours, then by 24 hours and Rudy Gay added 10 for San Antonio, who outscored Los Angeles 4421 in the fourth quarter.
Lebron James had 35 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, and Kyle Kuzma added 27 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, who had a four-game winning streak halted.
Los Angeles played without small forward Brandon Ingram, who sprained his left ankle in the Wednesday game.
Bertans knocked down four threepointers as the Spurs made 13 of 31 from three-point range and shot 50.5 percent overall. then, three hours before the putative kickoff on day two, called off entirely.
Boca claimed the game should be awarded to it, while River argued that as the incidents had taken place outside the stadium it could not be held accountable. CONMEBOL decided the game would be played in time for the Club World Cup, which meant this weekend, but not in Buenos Aires. The great powers wrangled.
No formal list of candidates was ever announced, but it seemed at various points it might be played in Abu Dhabi, where the Club World Cup final will be contested on December 22; or Doha, presumably in part because Boca is sponsored by Qatar Airways; or Paris, because PSG is also sponsored by the Qataris; or Miami, because of the large Hispanic community there; or Asuncion, because that is where CONMEBOL is based. But in the end Madrid won out, apparently on the basis of a 10-minute conversation between Dominguez and the president of Real Madrid, Florentino Perez.
If the match goes off peacefully, CONMEBOL will claim success, not least as broadcasters all over the world will have shown the fixture they paid for.
For Spain, there would be a boost to its 2030 World Cup bid, at the direct expense of the Uruguay-argentina-paraguay ticket, another lead contender. La Liga, intent on staging matches in the US, will feel its cause has greater precedent.
For River and Boca, the winner will hoist the cup and then join its host, Real Madrid, at the World Club Cup in the UAE later this month. River would also qualify for next year’s Copa Libertadores.
But any joy will be tinged with regret, for the final that could have been.
“Today we should be talking about how River and Boca made Argentina proud,” Boca coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said.
“Again, we have lost to violence.”
The Lakers shot 46 percent from the floor and made 11-of-36 from long range. San Antonio trailed for the entire second and third quarters, falling behind by as much as 15 points, before making a late dash.
The Spurs used a 9-0 run – capped by Bertans’ three-pointer with 4:48 left – to take a 118-112 lead.
A short time later, Derozan hit three consecutive shots as San Antonio took a 127-116 advantage with 2:10 remaining.
Another three-pointer by Bertans pushed the lead to 131-118 with 1:34 left, and the Spurs closed it out. Pep Guardiola is confident that Manchester City will not be banned from the Champions League despite UEFA’S investigation into the club’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) compliance.
UEFA will consider taking strong action against City if allegations published by Der Spiegel, the German magazine, are found to be proven by the investigation launched last month, The Independent
AP Demar Derozan (L) of the San Antonio Spurs goes for the basket against the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA game at AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX, the US, on December 7, 2018.
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP Boca Juniors’ Carlos Tevez salutes fans as the Argentine club arrives in Madrid, Spain, on December 5, 2018.