2018 Copa Libertadores Finals
|Event||2018 Copa Libertadores|
|Date||11 November 2018[note 1]|
|Venue||Estadio Alberto J. Armando, Buenos Aires|
|Referee||Roberto Tobar (Chile)|
|After extra time|
|Date||9 December 2018[note 2]|
|Venue||Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid[note 3]|
|Referee||Andrés Cunha (Uruguay)|
The 2018 Copa Libertadores Finals was the two-legged final to decide the winners of the 2018 Copa Libertadores, the 59th edition of the Copa Libertadores, South America's premier international club football tournament organised by CONMEBOL.
The finals were contested in a two-legged home-and-away format between Argentine clubs Boca Juniors and River Plate, making it the first Superclásico final of an international competition. The first leg was hosted by Boca Juniors at the Estadio Alberto J. Armando in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 11 November 2018, while the second leg took place outside South America at the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid, Spain (a neutral venue) on 9 December 2018. This was the last final to take place over two legs, as starting from 2019 the final will be played as a single match at a venue chosen in advance.
The second leg was originally to be hosted by River Plate at the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 24 November 2018. However, due to safety concerns resulting from the attack on the bus of Boca Juniors prior to the match, the second leg was moved outside of Argentina and South America, later confirmed to be the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid, Spain. This was the first time that the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final has been held outside of South America, and the first final held outside of the Americas.
River Plate won the final 5–3 on aggregate for their fourth Copa Libertadores title. As winners, they qualified as the CONMEBOL representative at the 2018 FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, entering in the semi-finals. They also earned the right to play against the winners of the 2018 Copa Sudamericana in the 2019 Recopa Sudamericana. River Plate also automatically qualified for the group stage of the 2019 Copa Libertadores.
Due to the intense rivalry between Boca and River, the match was referred to as the "Superfinal", and "the Final to end all Finals". The press called it the "most important final in Argentina's football history". According to Richard Martin, a Reuters reporter, River's win "guarantees them bragging rights over their neighbours for many years to come".
|Team||Previous finals appearances (bold indicates winners)|
|Boca Juniors||10 (1963, 1977, 1978, 1979, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2012)|
|River Plate||5 (1966, 1976, 1986, 1996, 2015)|
For the third time, two teams from the same country faced each other in the final, after Brazilian teams met in the 2005 and 2006 finals. It was the first all-Argentine final of the Copa Libertadores, as well as the first final to feature two teams from the same city. The 2018 finals marked the first time that the Superclásico was contested in the Copa Libertadores final (or any final of an international competition), and the third time that the two clubs have met in a final, after the 1976 Nacional championship final and the 2017 Supercopa Argentina.
Their most recent meeting in the Copa Libertadores had been in the 2015 round of 16, where Boca Juniors were disqualified and the tie awarded to River Plate, after River Plate players were attacked in la Bombonera stadium with pepper spray by Boca Juniors fans when the squad returned to the field following halftime of the second leg, when River were leading on aggregate 1–0.
Road to the final
Note: In all results below, the score of the finalist is given first (H: home; A: away).
|Boca Juniors||Round||River Plate|
|Alianza Lima||0–0 (A)||Matchday 1||Flamengo||2–2 (A)|
|Junior||1–0 (H)||Matchday 2||Santa Fe||0–0 (H)|
|Palmeiras||1–1 (A)||Matchday 3||Emelec||1–0 (A)|
|Palmeiras||0–2 (H)||Matchday 4||Emelec||2–1 (H)|
|Junior||1–1 (A)||Matchday 5||Santa Fe||1–0 (A)|
|Alianza Lima||5–0 (H)||Matchday 6||Flamengo||0–0 (H)|
|Group H runners-up
|Final standings||Group D winners
|Opponent||Agg.||1st leg||2nd leg||Final stages||Opponent||Agg.||1st leg||2nd leg|
|Libertad||6–2||2–0 (H)||4–2 (A)||Round of 16||Racing||3–0||0–0 (A)||3–0 (H)|
|Cruzeiro||3–1||2–0 (H)||1–1 (A)||Quarter-finals||Independiente||3–1||0–0 (A)||3–1 (H)|
|Palmeiras||4–2||2–0 (H)||2–2 (A)||Semi-finals||Grêmio||2–2 (a)||0–1 (H)||2–1 (A)|
The final was planned to be played on a home-and-away two-legged basis, with the higher-seeded team (River Plate) hosting the second leg. The away goals rule was not applied, and extra time would be played if the aggregate score was tied after the second leg. If the aggregate score was still tied after extra time, a penalty shoot-out would have been used to determine the winner. If extra time was played, a fourth substitution would have been allowed.
The first leg of the final was originally scheduled for 7 November, with the second leg on 28 November 2018 (both on Wednesdays). However, after the finalists were known, CONMEBOL adjusted the dates, with the first leg (hosted by Boca Juniors, the lower seed) on 10 November and the second leg (hosted by River Plate, the higher seed) on 24 November (both Saturdays at 16:00 local time). The Argentine Football Association opposed the date change. Following discussion, the final was moved to 17:00 local time. The first leg was postponed less than two hours before kickoff due to Boca Junior's pitch at the Estadio Alberto J. Armando being waterlogged due to local flooding. The match was rescheduled for the following day, 11 November, with the kickoff moved to 16:00 local time.  The game was goalless until the 34th minute mark, when Ramón Ábila put Boca ahead, only for Lucas Pratto to equalise 90 seconds later. Dario Benedetto then restored Boca's lead, to make the score 2–1 at half-time. However, the game was to end all square at 2–2 after Carlos Izquierdoz scored an own goal for River plate in the 61st minute.
|Boca Juniors||2–2||River Plate|
Violence and move of venue
Prior to the second leg of the final on 24 November, the Boca Juniors team bus was attacked en route to River Plate's stadium, the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti. Multiple windows on the bus were broken after being hit by projectiles thrown from a crowd surrounding the bus, allowing pepper spray to enter the bus. Multiple players on the bus were injured as a result of the broken glass and pepper spray, with the match delayed by one hour to 18:00 local time. Kickoff was later moved to 18:20 local time, and again to 19:15, before once more being delayed until 19:30. Following the delays, the match was rescheduled for the following day, 25 November, with the same kickoff, 17:00 local time. Former Boca Juniors and River Plate striker Gabriel Batistuta called the attacks "shameful".
On 25 November, prior to the rescheduled second leg, Boca Juniors requested that the match be postponed in order for it to be played under equal conditions, which was not met following the attack. CONMEBOL postponed the match once more as equal conditions were not guaranteed. On 27 November, CONMEBOL confirmed the second leg would be played outside Argentina due to safety concerns, with the match taking place on 8 or 9 December. Subsequently, on 29 November, CONMEBOL confirmed the match would take place at the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid, Spain, on 9 December at 20:30 local time.
For security reasons, prior to the first leg, both clubs unanimously agreed to prohibit away fans from attending either match. However, following the decision by CONMEBOL to move the second leg to Madrid, these plans were altered, with 5,000 tickets allocated to each club. Additionally, River Plate were reprimanded for the bus attack, fined $400,000, and ordered to play two games behind closed doors in the Estadio Monumental. Real Madrid sold 25,000 tickets to fans of each team, as over 250,000 Argentines live and work in Spain, as among those Argentines include Real Madrid manager Santiago Solari, a former River Plate midfielder. Real also agreed to sell tickets to their season ticket holders, which sold out quickly. Security responsibilities for the second leg have been delegated to the Spanish football federation, rather than CONMEBOL, with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez claiming that plans are already underway to have the "necessary deployments to ensure the event is secure".
However, additional concerns were reputedly raised by both clubs following the decision to move the game to Madrid. Leonardo Ponzio, the River Plate captain, was allegedly involved in a match-fixing scandal during his time at Real Zaragoza, and as such his eligibility to play football in Spain is unclear at present. Meanwhile, there are also reports that Boca Juniors intend to appeal the decision to relocate the second leg. In a subsequent press release, River Plate also announced an intent to protest the CONMEBOL decision to play in Madrid. Boca Juniors appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to have the second leg postponed, but was rejected, although the court would continue to consider whether River should be suspended.
The second leg finally went ahead in front of a crowd of approximately 72,000 in the Bernabéu. Most of the early opportunities fell to Boca, and finally Dario Benedetto, who had also scored in the first leg, scored in the 44th minute to give Boca a half-time lead. In the second half, River Plate fought back and finally equalised after another first-leg scorer, Lucas Pratto, scored in the 68th minute. The match then went to extra time, during which Boca were reduced to 10 men after Wilmar Barrios was sent off. River Plate took advantage, with Juan Quintero putting them into the lead in the 109th minute. An injury to Fernando Gago in the 116th minute, left Boca to just 9 men having used all substitutions. In the final minute Leonardo Jara hit the post for Boca, only for River Plate to break upfield and make the final score 3–1, with an empty net goal from Pity Martínez. "It's been almost 60 days since this started and there is tremendous sadness," said the Boca manager, Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
|River Plate||3–1 (a.e.t.)||Boca Juniors|
- The Boca Juniors v River Plate match, originally scheduled on 10 November 2018, 17:00 UTC−3, was postponed to the following day due to a waterlogged pitch.
- The River Plate v Boca Juniors match, originally scheduled on 24 November 2018, 17:00 UTC−3, was postponed to 9 December 2018 due to an attack on the Boca Juniors team bus when several players were injured.
- The River Plate v Boca Juniors match, originally scheduled to be hosted by River Plate at the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti, Buenos Aires, took place in Spain at the Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid due to safety concerns.
- River Plate manager Marcelo Gallardo was given a four-match ban (one-match stadium ban, three-match touchline ban) in CONMEBOL competitions following the semi-final second leg. Assistant manager and compatriot Matías Biscay filled in as manager.
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