Striker Wellington scored twice to earn Cruzeiro a 2-2 draw at 10-man Gremio on Thursday, setting up a Libertadores Cup final clash with Estudiantes.
Cruzeiro won their all-Brazilian semi-final 5-3 on aggregate and will travel to meet the Argentine side in La Plata for the first leg of the final next week.
“Now we must get down to work because we know that playing an Argentine team in the Libertadores final is not at all easy,” Cruzeiro’s man of the match Kleber said. “We have to prepare well to become champions.”
Cruzeiro beat Argentina’s River Plate in the 1976 final for the first of their two titles. They beat Sporting Cristal of Peru in the 1997 final.
Cruzeiro met three-times champions Estudiantes in the same group, winning 3-0 at home and losing 4-0 away.
“They are fine rivals and they have a player who’s really great to watch, and who troubles you a lot tactically, [Juan Sebastian] Veron,” Cruzeiro coach Adilson Batista said.
Batista added that Cruzeiro would have no problem going to La Plata despite the outbreak of the swine flu strain that has claimed at least 43 lives in Argentina.
“We’re going to travel, we’ll play, without any problem. We’re going to play football, put face masks on if necessary,” Batista said.
Gremio, 3-1 down from the first leg in Belo Horizonte, made the better start at the Olimpico in Porto Alegre, but their Argentine strike pair of Maxi Lopez and German Herrera missed early chances.
Cruzeiro were happy to play on the break and went ahead in the 35th minute when Kleber crossed for Wellington to volley home.
The striker found the net again less than two minutes later with a diving header from Jonathan’s cross for his fifth goal of the competition, leaving Gremio with a mountain to climb.
Defender Rever replied with a header from a corner in the 55th minute and midfielder Souza scored with a shot from outside the box that found Fabio’s top corner 20 minutes later to give Gremio some hope.
However, they had to play the last half-hour a man down after Adilson was sent off for a violent foul on Kleber.
Cruzeiro midfielder Ramirez said: “Now we have to play the first leg of the final away from home with the same approach as today’s match, to get our conquest on track.”