GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador (AP)Flamengo marched unbeaten to its third Copa Libertadores title after topping Athletico 1-0 in the all-Brazilian final on Saturday.
Gabriel Barbosa starred in the final yet again by producing the only goal in a half-full Metropolitano Stadium in Ecuador.
Flamengo also won in 1981 and 2019, the latter with two goals by Barbosa in the 2-1 final victory against Argentina’s River Plate.
Barbosa, considered a slim chance of playing for Brazil in the World Cup in Qatar, also netted the Rio de Janeiro club’s only goal in the final last year in the loss to Brazilian rival Palmeiras.
Barbosa’s latest goal was hatched in the 43rd minute when Athletico defender Pedro Henrique was booked for a second time after a harsh tackle. The incident gave more room for Flamengo to attack, and the goal came in the last seconds of the first half.
Everton Ribeiro made a low cross from the right and Barbosa just had to push the ball into an empty net.
”It was just as special as my first goal in a final,” Barbosa said after the match.
En route to the final, Flamengo knocked out Colombia’s Tolima, Brazil’s Corinthians and Argentina’s Velez Sarsfield, winning all of its matches.
Flamengo striker Pedro, who is expected to be in Brazil’s World Cup squad, was the Copa’s leading goal-scorer with 12 in 13 matches.
Flamengo coach Dorival Jr. said Barbosa was key for the title in different fashion, playing on the flanks to feed Pedro.
”He was decisive in one title as the top goal scorer and now as a team player,” said Dorival Jr., who took over in July after Portuguese coach Paulo Sousa was fired. ”Gabriel worked for us even more than he did in 2019.”
Athletico, chasing its first Copa Libertadores title, couldn’t deliver a perfect sendoff for coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. The former World Cup-winning coach said in the buildup he’s stepping down at age 73. He previously won the Copa with boyhood club Gremio in 1995 and with Palmeiras in 1999.
Scolari did not discuss his likely retirement during the post-match press conference. Veteran midfielder Fernandinho, who joined Athletico from Manchester City, said the title was lost ”in a detail.”
Local authorities in Ecuador struggled to sell all 60,000 tickets for the final. Guayaquil is about 6,000 kilometers (4,000 miles) from Rio and Curitiba.
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