River Plate beat Boca Juniors to reign in Di Stéfano's realm
Watching River Plate out there parading the trophy, I thought of Alfredo Di Stéfano, who I saw taste success so many times on the same pitch. He was a River youth product, so it was perhaps fitting that they should win the Libertadores at a stadium that owes them so much. It capped a final played in an electric atmosphere, in which a nine-man, never-say-die Boca Juniors went down fighting, throwing the kitchen sink at River late on. Madrid proved a worthy stage for this special occasion, excelling itself with its record-time organisation of the event. All in all, it was an unforgettable day, both for those who travelled from afar to be here, and for those of us who had this early Christmas present plonked right in our backyard.
Fine Benedetto finish gives Boca half-time lead
The match had begun as expected: intense, full-blooded and with neither side about to take any risks. River took better care of the ball but popped it about to little effect, probing for an opening that they could not find. Whenever Boca got hold of it, they bypassed the midfield and zealously raced towards their opponents' area. Half time was approaching when Esteban Andrada lost the ball outside his box and sparked panic among his colleagues; however, Boca were fortunate to see River fail to capitalise, and indeed commit so many men forward that they were caught on a break launched by Nahitan Nández. Darío Benedetto took full advantage of his sublime pass, slicing between the centre-backs and coolly slotting home.
River get their just deserts, but Boca go down swinging
Boca then appeared intent on protecting their advantage, sitting back and letting River have the ball in the second 45, as Marcelo Gallardo's side threw caution to the wind in search of an equaliser. Los Millonarios improved after Juan Quintero's introduction for Leonardo Ponzio, and really began to make their greater quality with ball at feet count. They drew level when a superb move down the right was finished off by Lucas Pratto and, with Boca by now reduced to 10 men, they made the game theirs in extra time. First, Quintero gave them the lead with a terrific hit before, with time almost up, Pity Martínez made it 3-1, finally burying a heroic Boca, who had sent Andrada forward and, by this stage, were down to nine.