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Flamengo Copa victory celebration in Rio ends in clashes

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Celebrations of Flamengo’s victory in South America’s top soccer club competition came to an abrupt end in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, when clashes erupted between a group of supporters and police.

Tens of thousands of ecstatic soccer fans wearing their team’s black-and-red jerseys poured into the streets of the city’s historic center in the morning to welcome Flamengo players.

For hours, the flood of supporters, including many families and children, celebrated peacefully, waving flags and setting off fireworks as the Copa Libertadores winners rode through the streets in an open-topped bus.

But around 4.30 p.m. local time, in the final stretch of the festivities, TV images showed thick white smoke coming out of the parade, which quickly dispersed the nearby crowd.

Clashes followed, with a group of supporters throwing rocks, beer bottles and other objects at police. The disturbances later eased.

The team’s victory Saturday over Argentine side River Plate has lifted the spirits of Brazilians after a period of economic stagnation and political infighting.

That’s especially true in Rio, home of the country’s largest club. It hadn’t won the Copa in 38 years, while its Brazilian rivals had won five of the previous 10 competitions.

‘Gabigol’ scores two goals at the death to lift Flamengo over River in Copa Libertadores final

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In the stretch of three minutes, Gabriel “Gabigol” Barbosa Almeida became an immortal Flamengo legend.

The 23-year-old forward scored twice in the dying minutes against River Plate in Lima, Peru, earning Flamengo their first Copa Libertadores title in 38 years, and their second ever in 124 years of existence.

Just three minutes prior to the historic goal, Gabigol – as effective as ever before for the Rubro-Negro – leveled the game following an emphatic recovery and counter-attack from the Brazilian side. With a strong, sliding tackle, Uruguayan midfielder Giorgian De Arrascaeta won the ball from an attack-minded River. With newfound possession, the 25-year-old paced forward, connecting a pass before receiving it back inside the box, where he would find the Inter Milan loanee for the leveling goal.

Back-to-back champions River Plate struck first on Saturday after Rafael Santos Borre struck Ignacio Fernandez’s cutback cross after 14 minutes into the first half. Despite seeing less of the ball throughout the 90 minutes, River’s dominance would remain intact for the remainder of the first half and throughout the early stages of the final 45 minutes.

As the clocked ticked and the second half started coming to a close, Marcelo Gallardo and Co. were pinned further and further back into their own half. Flamengo, powered by two, second half substitutions, pushed and eventually broke through the Argentine’s defense.

The Brazilian side are the new champions South America, and Gabigol – with the name living up to the expectations – will never be forgotten.

VIDEO: River edge past Boca to reach Copa Libertadores final

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Boca Juniors scored a late goal to beat bitter rivals River Plate 1-0 at La Bombonera on Tuesday, but River held on to reach the final of the Copa Libertadores with a 2-1 aggregate win.

Jan Hurtado scored the second-leg winner for Boca in the 80th minute to send the home fans wild, but it wasn’t enough as River somehow held on to reach their second-straight Copa Libertadores final.

Amid fireworks, copious amounts of ticker tape and an incredible atmosphere generated by Boca’s supporters at their home in Buenos Aires, to hold on for the aggregate victory was an amazing display of defensive strength from River Plate.

Boca battered River for large swathes of this game, with the home side squandering plenty of chances. Click play on the video below to watch the highlights as River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani was a busy man and came up with the goods.

Of course, the Copa Libertadores final between Boca and River last season was abandoned and then moved to Madrid, Spain over fan unrest as Boca Juniors bus was attacked.

River won the final 3-1 last season and they will face either Flamengo or Gremio in the final in Santiago, Chile on Nov. 23. This season will see the change in format to a one-off final to decide the Champions of CONMEBOL.

The Copa Libertadores winners will represent South America in the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar in December.

River Plate takes 1st leg advantage over Boca Juniors

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The Superclasico serving as Copa Libertadores semifinal got off to a pro-River Plate start, as Los Millonarios beat Boca Juniors 2-0 in the semifinal first leg on Tuesday.

Rafael Santos Borre converted a 7th minute penalty, and Ignacio “Nacho” Fernandez scored in the 70th minute as River takes a two-goal advantage back across Buenos Aires.

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Fernandez’s goal was the 29-year-old’s first in nine career matches against Boca (He had posted two assists). He had been linked with a move to LA Galaxy earlier this year.

The second leg is Oct. 22 at Boca. The other semifinal kicks off Wednesday, with Gremio hosts Flamengo in an all-Brazil affair.

Rematch: Boca to meet River in Copa Libertadores

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The best rivalry in all of South American soccer will be coming to the Copa Libertadores for the second-straight year.

After last year’s drama on and off the field in the Copa Libertadores final, River Plate’s aggregate win over Cerro Porteno of Paraguay ensured there would be another Superclasico, this time in the Copa Libertadores semifinals. River Plate tied Cerro Porteno, 1-1, on Thursday evening in Paraguay, advancing to the semifinals 3-1 on aggregate. Boca Juniors advanced to the semifinals with a 3-0 aggregate win over LDU Quito of Ecuador.

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It’s the first time both teams will be playing each other in an official match since last December’s Copa Libertadores final.

Last year’s Copa Libertadores final, which was being used by the Argentine football authorities to prove that they could host a future Copa America or World Cup, was a spectacular disaster, at least regarding security.

The first leg had to be delayed 24 hours due to torrential rain, and then ended up being a wild, 2-2 affair at Boca Juniors’ La Bombonera Stadium. The second leg was initially postponed one day, then two after Boca Juniors’ bus was attacked by River Plate fans on its way to the stadium, injuring some players and making the game a complete farce. Somehow a CONMEBOL doctor decided the players were good enough to play, even though one suffered temporary optical damage.

Eventually, CONMEBOL came to the conclusion that the game couldn’t be forfeited, but also couldn’t be played in Buenos Aires. A decision was made to move the game to Madrid, where security was in place, there were no issues, and the game finished with River Plate winning after extra time. Even prior to the final, CONMEBOL had announced that it was getting rid of the traditional two-legged finals in place of one in a neutral setting.

All of that is the backdrop to the next Superclasico this year. Suddenly, it’s yet another two-legged affair to take place in Buenos Aires, though perhaps Argentina’s security apparatus can take this opportunity to learn from last year’s mistakes. The first leg is scheduled for October 1 at River Plate’s Estadio Monumental, before returning to La Bombonera on October 22 for the second leg.