ROAD TO THE FINAL
“Topping a group including Brazilian giants São Paulo was a great achievement for Defensor, who were never really at threat of elimination from the competition at this stage after an opening 6-0 win away at Libertad.“
“Commanding performances in the first leg of both the Second Round and Quarters left Defensor in positions where solid, professional performances were enough, and they were good enough to make that happen with no drama. The home win over Grêmio may just be the result of their incredible run, but despite losing the second leg they were committed, determined and talented enough to keep it to one goal, take it to penalties and win it in front of the Brazilian fans.”
“Flamengo did what everybody expected and topped their group, with an away defeat to Independiente their only blip. Scoring 3+ goals in four of their 6 group games just goes to show the talent they possess in attacking areas.”
“Definitely the entertainers of the competition, Flamengo blitzed all that came before them, despatching Newell’s and River Plate, before their compatriots Santos in the Semi’s.”
“Flamengo are a side packed with incredible talent and full internationals scattered throughout the eleven. Talles Magno is the main threat from out on the left hand side, but Argentina striker Martín Soria has five Copa Libertadores goals this season and will be looking to add more. For the underdogs Defensor Sporting the spine of the side will be crucial. Santiago Mele has proven he can be a match winning goalkeeper, while holding midfielder Santiago Brunel will be key in providing protection for the back 4. Further forward, Christian Colman will need to be clinical to take any opportunities Defensor can create.”
1′ – Santiago Mele has to be alert straight from the off! Flamengo kick off and immediately a long ball forward from Rodolfo Manoel tries to find Soria. Fortunately for Defensor their goalkeeper is paying attention and meets the ball to clear.
4′ – Osvaldo Flores wins the ball from Talles Magno and starts a Defensor counter attack. The ball is worked from right to left, eventually finding Benjamín Rodríguez who cuts onto his right foot and whips a low cross in. It’s met by Flores, the man who started the move, but his shot is blocked.
10′ – CHANCE! Flamengo cut right through the middle of Defensor, with Neneca and Galeno combining to find Talles Magno, who shoots wide from just inside the area. Best chance of the match so far.
18′ – Flamengo build from the back with some slick passing, with Talles Magno and Renan Lodi combining well. Magno keeps the ball well and finds himself out on the right wing where his cross is blocked. Kramer heads away the resulting corner as Defensor deal well with the pressure.
21′ – GOAL! Defensor Sporting 0 – 1 FLAMENGO (Talles Magno)
Flamengo make the breakthrough, and you have to say it’s been coming. Another lovely spell of crisp passing results in Galeno finding some space out on the right flank, who lays the ball back to Marquinhos to dink a teasing cross over for Magno to power a header past the helpless Mele.
22′ – The goal has clearly rattled Defensor, and they’ve nearly gifted Flamengo a second goal. Juan Manuel Jorge gives the ball away cheaply and Galeno runs at the Defensor back line. Brunel does well to drop back and win the ball, but then plays an awful backpass to Mele which goes out for a corner. Kramer again gets to the ball first from the corner, but it drops to Galeno on the edge of the area who’s shot is wild and flies over the bar.
29′ – CHANCE! It should be 2-0 Flamengo. Renan Lodi saunters over to the right wing to whip in a free kick, and Rodolfo Manoel is completely unmarked on the penalty spot, but somehow puts his header way over the bar. A let off for Defensor.
33′ – CHANCE! Defensor need half-time and they need it now. Another smart move sees Flamengo set up camp 20 yards from Mele’s goal line, knocking the ball around with ease before Neneca finds the ball to slip Talles Magno in. His shot lacks conviction, but it’s still good enough to need an excellent save from Mele, who gets down quickly to his left to claw the ball from almost behind him, and Carlos Burgos is on hand to clear the danger.
39′ – CHANCE! That’s more like it from the Uruguayan’s! Burgos rises highest to head clear a Flamengo corner and the ball falls to the feet of Anthony Ibarra. He’s quick and direct, and carries the ball from one box to the other, jinking into the 6 yard box after cutting in from the left. Rather than shooting he elects to backheel to Benjamín Rodríguez, who takes a touch before shooting, but it’s blocked by Manoel and Flamengo clear.
43′ – Anthony Ibarra is booked for a needless challenge out by the right touchline. He’s had a couple already this game, so it’s time for his name to go into the book.
HALF TIME: DEFENSOR SPORTING 0 – 1 FLAMENGO
51′ – SUBSTITUTION: Martín Soria OFF; Rodrigo José ON (Flamengo)
52′ – Marquinhos takes a throw in on the right, which finds Galeno who gallops forward, beating two men before playing a cross against Mauro García to win a corner. Henrique’s corner is poor though, and is headed clear towards Christian Colman, who draws a foul from Galeno to ease the pressure on his defence.
56′ – SUBSTITUTIONS: Galeno, Matheus Henrique OFF; Jajá, Vinícius Júnior ON (Flamengo)
56′ – SAVE! A big save from Santiago Mele to keep Defensor alive! Renan Lodi trots over to the right hand side to take a free kick, but rather than whipping in a cross he plays the ball back to the edge of the area, where Vinícius Júnior was completely unmarked. He decides against a shot and plays the ball back out to Lodi, who this time does whip in a wicked left footed cross and finds Rodrigo José at the back post. José loops a header back across the goal, and thinks he’s scored until Mele claws at the ball and just gets enough on it to tip it over the bar. A save as excellent as it was vital.
66′ – SUBSTITUTIONS: Juan Manuel Jorge, Anthony Ibarra, Benjamín Rodríguez OFF; Matías Ocampo, Cristian Schneider, Jhon Da Luz ON (Defensor Sporting)
71′ – CHANCE! Another big chance for Defensor to draw level. Leguísamo finds Jhon Da Luz from a throw in, and the youngster puts in a perfect cross to find Christian Colman, the only purple shirt in the Flamengo box. His header from the penalty spot has the power, but it’s straight at the keeper and it’s a comfortable save.
83′ – GOAL! DEFENSOR SPORTING (Osvaldo Flores) 1 – 1 Flamengo
The underdogs from Uruguay are level! A lovely move starts out on the right hand side, Jhon Da Luz finds Cristian Schneider who shifts the ball onto his stronger left foot and plays a sumptuous pass over the Flamengo defence and straight onto the toe of substitute Matías Ocampo, who picks his head up and finds the run of Flores, with the midfielder applying a calm finish into the bottom corner. What a finish we’re in for now!
89′ – CHANCE! Since the equaliser the teams have been cancelling each other out a bit, but Flamengo will feel they should have won it here! A move starting from the left moves central and a give and go between Telles Magno and Rodrigo José plays the former in one on one with Mele, but he can’t beat the Uruguay international, who makes a crucial save at the expense of a corner.
92′ – GOAL! Defensor Sporting 1 – 2 FLAMENGO (Talles Magno)
Heartbreak for Defensor, but elation for Flamengo! It’s that man again, Telles Magno, who picks up the ball up just inside the Defensor half and somehow finds the energy to burst past Mauro García and Santiago Brunel. He takes the ball into the area and shoots across Mele who makes a good save, but the ball bounces fortunately for the Brazilian who takes advantage and taps into an unmanned net. Surely Defensor don’t have time to stage a remarkable comeback?!
FULL TIME: DEFENSOR SPORTING 1 – 2 FLAMENGO
FLAMENGO ARE THE 2028 COPA LIBERTADORES CHAMPIONS!
Defensor Sporting manager Maxi Pereira: “I’m absolutely gutted. The lads gave it everything and I couldn’t be more proud of their effort and application. We fell just short today, but this is a young side who will only grow, and they will reach this stage again. As for me, this is the end of my journey with the Libertadores. We will continue to fight this year, we have three games to seal a title, but that for me is the time to move on. I have my reasons, which will remain private, but no good thing can last forever and so I will move on. Let’s go and win the title and celebrate in style!”
It was a hell of a run! We won’t be adding the Copa Libertadores to Maxi’s CV in this save, maybe a South American return is on the cards for a future FM?! I’m gutted not to have won it, but the save rolls on. The next post will cover the final three games of the title run-in, our last matches at Defensor Sporting! It’s going to be tense, don’t miss it!
Thanks for reading.