Brazilian giants Corinthians reached the Copa Libertadores final for the first time in their history on Wednesday when they edged out compatriots Santos on aggregate following a tense 1-1 home draw.
The Sao Paulo team won the away leg 1-0 last week and advanced to the final after playing out a stalemate in soggy conditions that diminished the quality of the soccer from both sides.
Santos knew they needed to score to keep the tie alive and they enjoyed a majority of the possession, but Corinthians packed their defense and made it difficult for the visitors to break them down.
The pick of the early chances fell to Corinthians when Alex’s free-kick forced Rafael to make a fine fingertip save, but Santos stunned the home fans when they took the lead in the 35th minute to level the tie.
Gifted striker Neymar, considered by many to be the best player in the country, had been given little chance to run at the Corinthians defense, but when the 20-year-old finally found some space he was able to give Santos the lead.
Ten minutes before the break, he pushed the ball out wide to Alan Kardec and kept running to be on hand to bundle the ball into the net, after Borges had prodded Kardec’s cross onto the post.
Corinthians recovered from the setback and equalized just two minutes into the second half when Alex swung over a free-kick from the left and the ball fell to an unmarked Danilo, who coolly side-footed it into the net.
The draw means Corinthians have not lost a home match in the Copa Libertadores all season. They have conceded just three goals in 12 games.
“Our players deserve it, the fans deserve it, the management team deserves it, but we know that we’ve not won anything yet. Our feet are still on the ground,” Danilo said.