Brazilian giants Corinthians
reached the Libertadores Cup final for the first time in their
history on Wednesday when they edged out compatriots Santos on
aggregate following a tense 1-1 home draw.
The Sao Paulo had team won the away leg 1-0 last week and
advanced to the final after playing out a stalemate in soggy
conditions that diminished the quality of football from both
Santos went into the game knowing they needed to score to
keep the tie alive and enjoyed a majority of the possession, but
Corinthians packed their defence and made it difficult for the
visitors to break them down.
The pick of the early chances fell to Corinthians when
Alex's free-kick forced Rafael to make a fine fingertip save,
but Santos stunned the home fans when they took the lead in the
35th minute to level the tie.
Gifted striker Neymar, considered by many to be the best
player in the country, had been given little chance to run at
the Corinthians backline but when the 20-year-old finally found
some space, he was able to gave Santos the lead.
Ten minutes before the break, he pushed the ball out wide to
Alan Kardec and kept running to be on hand to bundle the ball
into the net after Borges had prodded Kardec's cross onto the
Backed by a capacity crowd, Corinthians recovered from the
setback and equalised just two minutes into the second half when
Alex swung over a free kick from the left and the ball fell to
an unmarked Danilo, who coolly sidefooted it into the net.
Santos pushed for a second goal but rarely troubled the
well-organised Corinthians defence.
The draw means Corinthians have not lost a home match in the
Libertadores Cup all season and have conceded just three goals
in 12 games.
"Our players deserve it, the fans deserve it, the management
team deserves it," said Danilo, who won the South American
equivalent of the Champions League with Sao Paulo in 2005.
"But we know that we've not won anything yet. Our feet are
still on the ground."
Corinthians will face either six times champions Boca
Juniors of Argentina or Universidade de Chile in the final. The
teams play their second leg in Santiago on Thursday with the
home side looking to overturn a 2-0 deficit.
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