By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last night (December 13th), a raucous Maracanã Stadium was the site of the second leg of the 2017 Copa Sudamericana championship final with Argentina’s Independiente lifting the championship trophy after an exciting 1-1 draw over Flamengo.
Before the opening whistle last night, the Rubro-Negra were already down by one goal. In the first leg of the final, last Wednesday, December 6th, Independiente fell behind to an early goal on home soil but bounced back to beat Flamengo 2-1.
It was an intense atmosphere at Maracanã Stadium last night amidst the flares and fireworks and a sea of red and black as a frenzied crowd of 63,000 fans were on hand for the dramatic matchup.
Spurred on by Nação Rubro-Negra, Flamengo were on the attack early on with several early chances from Felipe Vizeu, Éverton, and Diego.
Despite the fast start, Flamengo could not find the back of the net until the thirty-minute mark. Lucas Paquetá poked home a close-range shot off the set piece sending the already boisterous crowd into a frenzy and giving Flamengo the 1-0 lead.
The celebration, however, would be short-lived due to a controversial call at the fortieth minute. A penalty was awarded to Independiente when Meza fell down in the box appearing to trip over his own feet. The team from Argentina would cash in when the 18-year-old phenom, Ezequiel Barco, hammered home the ensuing penalty shot past César to level the game 1-1.
The second half saw more furious action as Flamengo tried desperately to find a goal. A scary moment came thirty minutes into the period when César came off the line and collided with his own teammate. The keeper appeared to be knocked unconscious but soon came to and continued on.
One final chance for the Rubro-Negra came in extra time with Independiente keeper Campaña off the line, leaving an empty net for Réver who launched a rocket that sailed just over the net dashing all hopes of a Flamengo comeback.
As the final whistle blew, the contingent of Argentines in attendance celebrated as Independiente lifted its second-ever Copa Sudamericana trophy.
With the conclusion of the Copa Sudamericana, Flamengo now turns the page on a 2017 season that fell well short of expectations. Despite big-spending and high-profile moves, the club not only fell short in last night’s final, it also finished a disappointing sixth in the recently concluded Campeonato Brasileiro (Brasileirão) Série A.
The Rubro-Negra return to the pitch on January 17th for the start of the 2018 Taça Guanabara against Volta Redonda.