LIMA, Peru —- Flamengo, for the first time since 1981, are returning to the Club World Cup after an astonishing last-gasp victory over Argentinian holders River Plate in the first-ever single-match final of the Copa Libertadores, South American equivalent of Europe’s Champions League.
The first single-match final of the Copa was moved from Santiago to the Peruvian capital because of street protests in Chile.
Two goals in the last three-minutes from on-loan Gabriel Barbosa turned on its head a match in which River Plate had been in total command. The manner of the Brazilians’ success was reminiscent of Manchester United’s dramatic victory over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League showdown in Barcelona in 1999.
River, controversial winners over neighbours Boca Juniors last year in Madrid., took the lead through Rafael Borré after 14 minutes and looked to be cruising to their fifth Libertadores triumph.
However, Barbosa, the striker nicknamed Gabigol who is on loan from Internazionale, tapped in from close range with a minute left and then rifled home from 15 metres in stoppage time. He was also sent off in the dying moments, along with Exequiel Palacios of River Plate.
Flamengo, who will thus represent South America in next months’s FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar, will also win the Brazilian championship on Sunday if second-placed Palmeiras fail to beat Gremio.
In 1981 Flamengo, inspired by Zico, outplayed European champions Liverpool 3-0 in a single-match world final in Tokyo.