Internacional claimed their second Copa Libertadores trophy after defeating Mexican club Chivas de Guadalajara.
Brilliant wonder goals, a red card, swimming caps, bloody shorts, kidney punches, disrespecting of anthems, and a post-match brawl. The second leg of the Copa Libertadores final truly had it all. Through all the drama, Brazilian side Internacional ultimately walked away with the 2010 Copa Libertadores crown. The title is their second since 2006 and their fourth continental title in four years between their two Copa Libertadores wins and their victories in the Copa Sudamericana and the Recopa Sudamericana.
After defeating Chivas 2-1 at Estadio Chivas in the first leg, Internacional were heavy favorites going into Wednesday night’s match. Unfortunately for them, striker Alecsandro was ruled out with an injury, forcing Rafael Sobis into the lineup. Also returning to the lineup for Inter was Tinga, the midfielder who was suspended for the first leg after a red card in the semi-finals against Sao Paulo. Chivas made one change with Patricio Araujo coming in for Edgar Mejía.
The match was a very physical, and some might go as far to say dirty affair. Before the match, the Mexican national anthem was cut short, causing Bofo Bautista of Chivas to walk away from the lines before the end of the Brazilian national anthem, drawing boos from the crowd. This set the stage for a match filled with dangerous challenges and physical contact that was not anywhere near what could possibly be considered fair or clean. At one point, Inter’s Tinga was bleeding profusely from his head and was given a Speedo swimming cap to cover the wound in addition to being forced to exchange his bloody shorts for a pair that belonged to Rafael Sobis. While the match may not have been clean, it certainly was exciting.
Inter created the first big chance of the match when Sandro directed a header on target off of an Andres D’Alessandro free kick in the 10th minute. Unfortunately for Inter, his effort was saved by Chivas keeper Luis Michel. For the next 12 minutes, it was all Inter until Marco Fabian gave them a scare with a stunning shot that just barely went over the crossbar. Inter would then begin an onslaught on the Chivas defense, but they would fail to hit the target. Within two minutes of each other, D’Alessandro, Bolivar, and Rafael Sobis all had efforts miss the target.
Throughout the rest of the half, Inter controlled the play, although they struggled to create clear-cut scoring chances. Then, in the 42nd minute, lightning struck for Chivas.
As Chivas surged forward, striker Omar Bravo found his teammate Marco Fabian near the penalty spot who would hit a spectacular, acrobatic volley past Renan to make the score 1-0 Chivas on the night and 2-2 on aggregate. Away goals count throughout the first three knockout rounds in Copa Libertadores, but not the final, so Chivas had found themselves level with Inter after 42 minutes at the Beira-Rio.
After halftime, Inter came out of the gates with all guns blazing, giving their all to regain the lead. Both Taison and Rafael Sobis would find the target within the first three minutes of the half, but both of their efforts were saved by Michel. Taison would eventually be subbed off for Giuliano in the 64th minute.
Inter controlled the play yet again for a long spell without creating much in the way of scoring chances until the 61st minute when Rafael Sobis would put the hosts back on top. Taison hit a through ball to Sobis who calmly finished as he ran on to it and was rattled by Chivas keeper Michel. Sobis appeared to be injured on the play but would continue for the next 12 minutes.
In the 71st minute of play, Chivas defender Héctor Reynoso delivered three punches to the general vicinity of the kidneys of Rafael Sobis. Reynoso was called for a foul but the official did not see the punches, meaning Reynoso avoided being red carded. Sobis was obviously affected by the punches and was subbed off in the 73rd minute for fellow striker Leandro Damiao.
Damiao would make his impact on the game only two minutes later. In the 75th minute, he picked the ball up around the halfway line, beat his man, used his pace to beat the rest of the defense, and calmly finished past Michel to give Inter a 2-1 lead on the day and a 4-2 lead on aggregate, all but sealing the title for Internacional.
In the 85th minute, Chivas striker Omar Arellano entered into a dangerous two-footed challenge on D’Alessandro and was subsequently shown a red card. Just four minutes later, substitute Giuliano would pile on the misery even further with a classy, composed finish in the 89th minute to make it 3-1 on the evening and 5-2 on aggregate. Omar Bravo would score for Chivas off of a set piece to round out the scoring in stoppage time, but it was too little, too late for a Chivas de Guadalajara side that were simply out-classed over the course of 180 minutes.
Of course, we couldn’t have a nice, respectful trophy celebration after the anthem debacle and a chippy game with red cards that were and should have been. A complete brawl broke out between the teams post-match with punches and kicks thrown by both sides. Players could be seen dodging event staff who were attempting to set up the trophy presentation to find and fight their opponents. It was an unfortunate end to an exciting match and players who were caught throwing punches on tape are unlikely to avoid retroactive punishment.
In the end, despite the extra-curricular activities, the best side won the trophy after 180 minutes of play as the Beira-Rio rejoiced. Many pieces of the Internacional squad are already moving on or are rumored to be making big money deals to Europe, but despite what the side that shows up to the Club World Cup looks like in December, this group of Internacional players will be remembered forever.