Boca Juniors held off Palmeiras’ pressure at Allianz Parque, taking the match to maximum penalties, where Romero shone once again, taking the Argentine team to their 12th Copa de Libertadores final.
Palmeiras 1(2×4)1 Boca Juniors
After the goalless draw in the first leg match at La Bombonera, Palmeiras came to decide the clash as the favorite, in front of their home crowd. However, Boca Juniors, technically inferior but highly spirited, showed great determination and tradition in the Libertadores to secure their sixth draw in the knockout stages of the competition and win the penalty shootout, earning a spot in the long-awaited final.
In the fourth Libertadores knockout encounter between Palmeiras and Boca Juniors, the Argentines maintained their dominance, as they have eliminated the Brazilians on every occasion. The most recent one took place in 2018, in which the Argentines also knocked out the Green Team in the semifinals at Allianz Parque.
Following the lackluster performance by Palmeiras in Argentina, it was expected that there would be changes in the team’s offensive lineup; however, Abel Ferreira stuck with the same starting eleven, which caused a lot of frustration among Palmeiras fans.
Despite dominating possession, with a significantly higher ball possession, Palmeiras failed to create dangerous opportunities in the first half.
At the 14th minute mark, Gabriel Menino attempted a long-range shot, Romero made the save, but gave up a rebound and was fouled by Rony. The forward received a yellow card, and there was a brief scuffle among the players.
Boca opened the scoring at the 22nd minute. In a play down the left flank, Merentiel easily got past Gustavo Gómez, entered the penalty area, and crossed it for Cavani, who slid in to push the ball into the back of the net.
At the 35th minute, Marcos Rocha took a throw-in into the box, Mayke flicked it on, and Rony attempted a bicycle kick. The ball went wide without posing any danger.
For the second half, Palmeiras needed to step up and do something different, as they had a lackluster first half. Therefore, Abel Ferreira brought on the young talents, Endrick and Kevin, replacing Marcos Rocha and Artur. Palmeiras did indeed improve; they were a more mobile team that attacked the opponent much more aggressively.
Endrick came on strongly and changed the game. At the 13th minute, the young talent delivered a beautiful pass to Mayke at the edge of the area; the full-back took a shot, and Romero made a great save. On the rebound, Zé Rafael attempted a long-range shot in the corner, and once again, Romero came up with a save, sending it out for a corner.
At the 15th minute, Barco tried to surprise with a corner kick. The winger attempted an Olympic goal, hitting the near post, but then the ball went wide.
At the 20th minute, Marcos Rojo was sent off. The defender, while attempting a sliding tackle on Kevin near the area, committed a foul and received his second yellow card, leaving the Argentines with one player less for a significant amount of time.
With a numerical advantage, Palmeiras went all out and applied tremendous pressure, practically preventing the opponent from crossing the midfield.
At the 26th minute, Piquerez crossed for Rony, who headed between the defenders. Romero made a point-blank save.
Verdão leveled the score in the next minute. Veiga took the corner kick, the ball passed through the box and found Mayke on the other side. The full-back played it to Piquerez in the middle, who, from a long distance, fired a cross-shot and benefited from a slight deflection on the way to beat Boca’s goalkeeper, who, due to his quality, could have made the save.
Photo: Marcos Ribolli
After the draw, the Argentinians started time-wasting tactics and, in a way, managed to slow down Palmeiras’ momentum. To the frustration of the Brazilians, the referee only added 5 minutes of injury time.
Rony came close to scoring an iconic goal at the 46th minute. Luis Guilherme crossed, and the striker attempted a bicycle kick, but Romero made a diving save. On the rebound, the goalkeeper even managed to dispossess Endrick, who tried a Zidane-like turn to score the goal.
With the match heading towards penalties, Cavani took the first spot-kick, and despite scoring during the game, he took a poor penalty, and Weverton made the save. From that point on, Romero shone as he saved Raphael Veiga and Gustavo Gómez’s penalties, while Boca converted with their three defenders, Valdez, Valentini, and Figal.
Photo: Marcos Ribolli
Kevin and Piquerez converted their penalties, but Pol Fernández closed out the series and dashed Palmeiras’ dream of a fourth title.
The Argentine goalkeeper, who has been crucial in all knockout stages for Boca, boasts an impressive penalty-saving record. He has a 52% success rate in penalty saves, having stopped 12 out of 23 penalties.
In the grand final, Boca will face Fluminense at the Maracanã on November 4th.
Written by Henry Miller.