Flamengo stuns River Plate to win first Copa Libertadores since 1981

River Plate was minutes from defending the Copa Libertadores until Gabriel Barbosa snatched victory for Flamengo.

Gabriel Barbosa celebrates his winning goal in the Copa Libertadores final   -  Getty Images

Flamengo became champion of South America on Saturday as two goals in three minutes from Gabriel Barbosa snatched a 2-1 win over River Plate in the Copa Libertadores final.

The one-off match, relocated to Estadio Monumental in Lima due to civil unrest in Santiago, looked set to be settled by a first-half strike from Rafael Santos Borre.

Marcelo Gallardo's men, bidding to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since Boca Juniors in 2001, had the game largely under control until Gabriel levelled in the 89th minute.

The striker then smashed home on the half-volley in the second minute of injury time before being sent off along with Exequiel Palacios in one of the most dramatic finales to the competition's recent history.

Without a goal from open play in this year's tournament, Borre needed just 14 minutes to break the deadlock, firing low past Diego Alves on the turn from 12 yards out after Gerson and Willian Arao had each pulled out of clearing Ignacio Fernandez's cut-back.

River was comfortable with its lead, keeping Flamengo firmly at arm's length while threatening a second via a strike from distance from Palacios.

Flamengo at last had a golden chance to equalise 10 minutes into the second half, only for Gabriel to be denied by a block from Nicolas de la Cruz – contentiously with his upper arm – before Franco Armani thwarted Everton Ribeiro on the rebound.

Gabriel Barbosa celebrates after scoring a goal for Flamengo in the Copa Libertadores final.   -  GETTY IMAGES


As pressure began to build, Flamengo left itself open to the counter-attack and Palacios shot wide when teed up by the persistent Matias Suarez, who won back possession in the opposition box.

It proved to be a crucial miss, with Gabriel tapping into the unguarded net after Giorgian de Arrascaeta spun in behind the River defence and pulled the ball across goal.

Three minutes later, Gabriel pounced on a bouncing ball and lashed beyond Armani to send the Flamengo fans into raptures.

Booked for taking off his shirt in celebration, Gabriel was then sent off for his part in an altercation that also saw Palacios dismissed, but nothing could dampen Flamengo spirits.

What's next?

River takes on Newell's Old Boys in the Superliga next Saturday. Flamengo's next outing is a league clash with Ceara on Wednesday evening.

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