Plagued by chaos, irony, protest, Copa Lib­er­ta­dores will fi­nally be de­cided in Madrid

Iran Daily - - Sports -

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

AN­DREW BOYERS/REUTERS

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.

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