SAO PAULO (AP) Argentina’s Independiente is the champion of Copa Sudamericana, the second most prestigious tournament in South America. A 1-1 draw with Brazil’s Flamengo on Wednesday night in Rio de Janeiro gave the Argentinians a 3-2 victory in the aggregate result and their second title in the competition.
The winners of Copa Sudamericana secure a spot in the next edition of Copa Libertadores, the region’s most prestigious competition.
The final was surrounded by trouble, with hundreds of Flamengo fans breaking into the Maracana and attacking Independiente supporters on nearby streets. Police used stun grenades to calm the situation. Since Tuesday night more than 50 Flamengo fans were detained in incidents with Independiente followers.
Independiente fans were filmed making racist gestures to locals.
With the support of more than 54,000 fans in an overpacked Maracana, Flamengo striker Lucas Paqueta opened the scoring meters away from the line in the 29th minute after a low cross from defender Rever.
The Brazilians did not celebrate long. A controversial penalty allowed 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco to tie the match in the 36th. The second half gave the Brazilians two clear chances to score, but Independiente held on to win its first continental title since it was relegated in 2013 from Argentina’s top-flight division.
“We showed we deserved the title during all our campaign, today was no different,” an emotional Barco told journalists on the pitch. On its way to the title, Independiente eliminated Argentina’s Atletico Tucuman and Paraguay’s Nacional and Libertad until they met Flamengo in the final.
Barco, one of the best players of the tournament, is leaving the club to play at Major League Soccer, for Atlanta. He could have played his last match for Independiente at the Maracana.
“I never imagined I could leave Independiente, but now all I want to do is to celebrate this title and thank fans for their support all those years,” the youngster said.
Coach Ariel Holan, who spent most of his career working at field hockey teams, criticized the animosity involving the match.
“This title is a dream to me. But these problems off the pitch need to be eradicated. Not only in Brazil, but all over Latin America,” he said.