Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Atletico earn first Copa Libertadores on penalties

CUP COLLECTION:Atletico Mineiro’s Ronaldinho said the addition of the trophy to his extensive collection was proof that he is not washed up as player just yet


Atletico Mineiro captain Rever, center, on Wednesday holds up the Copa Libertadores after they won their second-leg final against Club Olimpia at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Photo: AFP

Ronaldinho added a Copa Libertadores title to his collection of honors as Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro defeated Paraguay’s Club Olimpia in a penalty shootout to win the continental club championship on Wednesday.

Trailing 2-0 after the first leg, Atletico needed an 87th-minute goal by defender Leonardo Silva to draw level, after striker Jo had scored at the start of the second half.

After a goalless extra-time, goalkeeper Victor used his feet to stop the first penalty in the shootout by Herminio Miranda, and Matias Gimenez hit a post with the final spot-kick to give Atletico their first major international title.

Former two-time world player of the year Ronaldinho thrived internationally with Barcelona and Brazil, winning the UEFA Champions League and the 2002 World Cup, but had craved the South American title since returning home in 2011.

“This is why I came back to Brazil,” Ronaldinho said. “Not long ago people were saying that I was done, but we showed today that isn’t the case.”

Alecsandro, Guilherme, Jo and Leonardo Silva scored for the Brazilian club in the shootout. Juan Ferreyra, Salustiano Candia and Lorenzo Aranda converted their penalties for Olimpia, who were trying to win their fourth Copa Libertadores title and first since 2002.

Olimpia, who also won the competition in 1979 and 1990, played a man down from the 85th minute after defender Julio Cesar Manzur was sent off.

Jo, the tournament’s leading scorer with seven goals, had opened the scoring in the 46th with a right-footed shot after a cross by Rosinei, who had just entered the match as a halftime substitute.

Ferreyra had a golden chance to score a late away goal for Olimpia and virtually end the contest as he dribbled past Victor on a breakaway and had the open net in front of him, but slipped and fell, allowing the goalkeeper to recover.

“You can’t miss so many chances in a Copa final,” Olimpia manager Ever Almeida said.

With nearly 60,000 fans at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, chanting: “We believe, we believe,” Atletico made the most of that reprieve as Leonardo Silva rose above the defenders to head a cross into the far corner and make it 2-2 on aggregate, sending the game to extra-time.

Leonardo Silva had already struck the crossbar with a header in the 61st minute and fellow defender Rever also hit the bar in the first half of extra-time.

Olimpia’s best chance after 90 minutes came fromj midfielder Wilson Pittoni, who missed just wide with a free-kick.

“We should have settled the tie in first half, but we’re proud to be vice champions of South America,” Olimpia coach Ever Almeida, who won the title twice as a player with his team, told Fox Sports.

Atletico had already made remarkable recoveries in the previous two rounds, owing their survival to a penalty save by goalkeeper Victor in the dying seconds of the quarter-final against Tijuana and another in the semi-final shootout victory over Newell’s Old Boys.

Victor gave Atletico the ideal start in the shootout on Wednesday, saving from defender Herminio Miranda and Atletico converted all four of theirs.

“If feels even better to win it like this,” Victor said. “We had to go through a lot to get to where we are now.”

“When it’s written, it’s written, this was meant for us,” Altetico coach Cuca said.

While Atletico’s players were receiving their medals and the trophy, some fans ran onto the pitch of the newly refurbished 2014 World Cup stadium and almost got into a fight with Olimpia players, but stewards controlled the situation.

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