Goiás' continental fairytale came to an abrupt end last night, as they lost the Copa Sul-americana final to Independiente. The Esmeraldino had built up a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, but came unstuck in Argentina; losing on penalties after their opponents had drawn level on aggregate. Disappointment, then, for Arthur Neto's men, but the result was celebrated in the blue and black half of Porto Alegre; Grêmio now qualify for the 2011 Libertadores.
Independiente 3-1 Goiás (5-3 on penalties)
The hosts, needing a two-goal victory, predictably flew out of the blocks in the opening minutes. They were boosted by a goal within 20 minutes; Julian Velazquez tucked home neatly after Goiás 'keeper Harlei had parried a shot. Within seconds, however, the Esmeraldino silenced the Estádio Libertadores. Wellington Saçi broke down the left, and crossed for Rafael Moura (who else?) to power in a header.
The first half continued to be played at breakneck pace, with chances falling for both sides. Independiente regained the lead in fortuitous fashion; Ernando's attempted clearance ricocheted off Facundo Parra, and looped into the far corner of the net. The home side had the wind in their sales, and swiftly bagged a third. The Goiás backline failed to cut out Patricio Rodríguez's cross from the left, allowing Parra, who was lying on the floor after challenging for a header, to poke out a leg and flick the ball past Harlei. It was another bizarre goal, but Independiente didn't care a jot; they needed just one more to guarantee the title.
Unfortunately for the hosts, the attacking verve of the opening period was replaced by conservatism and nerves after the interval; they looked more concerned about not conceding than they were about scoring. Consequently, the best chances fell to Goiás; Otacílio Neto had a goal chalked off for offside, and Rafael Moura could only blast into the side netting in the final minutes. The teams, level on aggregate (the Sul-americana has no away goals rule) went to extra time, and the visitors continued to push forward; Rafael Tolói struck the woodwork with their best opportunity.
Independiente, who had offered precious little since their third goal, must have been pleased to see the game go to penalties. Journeyman striker Felipe was the unlucky player whose miss would prove crucial for Goiás, as El Diablo Rojo expertly converted all five of their spot-kicks. As the Independiente faithful celebrated victory, the Goiás players shuffled despondently into the dressing room. The disappointing final chapter, though, shouldn't take too much away from what was a thoroughly impressive cup run, especially from a team who will play in Série B next term.
Result; Independiente 3-1 Goiás (5-3 on penalties).
(Photo credit; Reuters.)