Santos have won the 2011 Copa (it’s a disgrace) Libertadores. They beat Peñarol 2-1 in the final second leg tonight. Unfortunately a mass brawl involving both sets of players, club officials and other unknown people ensued at the of the match. The Santos players accused the Peñarol players of being sore losers but the Brazilian press later reported that the brawl started when somebody dressed stewards uniform hit a Peñarol player for absolutely no reason. No matter who started it, everybody involved should be ashamed. What a disgrace! Why does this happen so often in Libertadores matches? It happened after the final last year and in the match between Fluminense and Argentinos Juniors earlier this year.
As for the match, Santos deserved the victory after a dominant second half display. The first half was poor considering the magnitude of the game, but once Neymar opened the scoring in the second minute of the second half, Santos began to dominate. The influential Arouca improved his game and that made a big difference to Santos. The Peñarol players resorted to some rough tactics and one should have been sent off for elbowing Neymar in the back of the head. The dozy ref missed it. But Santos weathered the physical storm and Neymar was not to be intimidated. Their second goal finally arrived when right-back Danilo scored with a left footed shot after a surging run. Peñarol had a glimmer of hope when Durval put through his own net with around ten minutes to go but they didn’t have the equalizer in them.
Santos were boosted with Ganso returning after injury. He started the match and lasted 80 minutes before running out of gas. He was lacking a bit of pace but sure hasn’t lost his eye for a pass and was involved in most of Santos’ good attacking moves. Class. Zé Eduardo (ala Zé Donkey) said farewell to the Santos fans ahead of his move to Genoa by doing what he does best: missing excellent chances. Peñarol are a limited team and the fact that they got this far in the competition shows that having a well-organized side can reap dividends in any part of the world and in any competition. But Santos, thanks to their excellent coach Muricy, are also a well-organized team and in the end their superior quality was the difference between the two teams.
A special word should also be said for Adriano, Santos’ defensive midfield player. I haven’t mentioned him on this blog before and he doesn’t catch the limelight as much as the likes of Neymar or Ganso. He wasn’t in the team and nobody had ever heard of him at the beginning of the year. But after a couple of injuries to other players and a few words from Muricy, he is now a definite starter and defensively, Santos’ key player. Immaculate positioning, reading of the game and sacrifice. The ultimate unsung hero. Yes, they do exist in Brazil.