By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last night, Wednesday, February 28th, CR Flamengo kicked off their 2018 Copa Libertadores campaign with a 2-2 draw against Argentina’s, River Plate, in an empty Nilton Santos Stadium (Engenhão).
The two popular South American clubs were forced to play last night’s match behind closed doors resulting from Flamengo fans’ unruly behavior at last December’s Copa Sudamericana final at Maracanã. In that match, Flamengo drew 1-1 with Argentina’s Independiente but lost the championship final on aggregate goals.
Last night, both teams started the match tentatively with few scoring chances in the first period. In the closing moments of the half, River Plate just missed getting on the board when Rodrigo Mora launched a perfect long-range free kick which Diego Alves barely deflected.
At the start of the second period, Diego was tripped in the box leading to the game’s first score. Henrique Dourado promptly cashed in on the ensuing penalty to give Flamengo the 1-0 lead. Only one minute later, River Plate equalized with a Rodrigo Mora header at the 57th minute.
At the 68th minute, Éverton snuck past the defense and scored on a far corner shot to give the Rubro-Negra the 2-1 lead. Just as it looked as if Flamengo would walk away with the victory, at the 87th minute Camilo Mayada skipped a shot from thirty yards out that skimmed past a diving Alves to salvage the 2-2 draw for Argentinian club.
Flamengo now turns its attention back to the Campeonato Carioca and the Taça Rio with a trio of games against arch-rivals Botafogo on March 3rd, Boa Vista on March 7th, and Macaé on March 10th, before returning to the Copa Libertadores against Emelec on March 14th.
The 2018 Copa Libertadores champion will qualify for the 2018 FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, and also earn the right to play the 2018 Copa Sudamericana champion in the 2019 Recopa Sudamericana.