By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In an emotional and intense matchup, on Wednesday, December 7th, Grêmio drew 1×1 with Atlético-MG in the second leg of the Copa do Brasil (Brazil Cup) final to win the tournament for a record fifth time. Grêmio, who last won the Copa do Brasil fifteen years ago, had won the first leg 3×1 when the two teams faced off on November 23rd in Mineirão Stadium, at Belo Horizonte.
Last night’s game was originally scheduled for last Wednesday, November 30th, but the game was postponed following the tragic airplane crash over Colombia on November 28th, which killed most of the Chapecoense football (soccer) team.
Before the game’s opening whistle, the 55,000 fans at Arena Grêmio observed a moment of silence for the 71 victims of the Chapecoense tragedy, who were on their way to Colombia for the Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional.
With chants of “vamos, vamos, Chape,” (let’s go, let’s go, Chape) in honor of the fallen football club cascading throughout the sold-out stadium as the match began, it was clear that players from both sides were feeling the nerves of the moment.
Aside from a couple of scoring chances from Atletico’s Robinho and Grêmio’s Everton, goal opportunities were few and far between, and both teams left the field at the half without reaching the scoreboard.
It was more of the same for most of the second half, until the game’s closing moments when the home team would finally break through. In the 88th minute, Grêmio attacker Miller Bolanos pounced off a blocked shot from teammate Luan and knocked the loose ball into the back of the net, sending the hometown crowd into a frenzy.
A meaningless goal three minutes later from Atletico’s Cazares could not stop the celebration in the stands and on the field as, thanks to their 3×1 win in the first leg, Grêmio’s fifth Copa do Brasil title was ensured.
As the team adds another Copa do Brasil trophy to its trophy case, Grêmio now pass Cruzeiro as the winningest team in the tournament.
Importantly, with the victory, Grêmio has also earned a spot in the 2017 Copa Libertadores tournament.