Thursday, August 14, 2014

Argentina's San Lorenzo Wins Copa Libertadores

This summer the Argentine men's national team fought their way to the World Cup championship match although they ultimately lost to a strong German side. Similarly, Argentine soccer club San Lorenzo battled their way to the final series of the Copa Libertadores. Unlike their more heralded compatriots, however, El Ciclón did not stumble at the final hurdle.

San Lorenzo captured the crown of South America's top soccer tournament following a 1-0 win at home in Buenos Aires on Wednesday night. The 2-1 aggregate win over Paraguayan minnows Nacional gave San Lorenzo it's first major title in the team's 106-year history.

Following last week's tie in Asuncion, both teams looked for the advantage to cap their surprising runs in the Libertadores.  The Paraguayan side was stronger in the first half hour and were unlucky when a shot by Derlis Orue rang off the goalpost. But the breakthrough came in the 36th minute against the run of play when Nacional defender Ramón Coronel handled the ball in the penalty box. Midfielder Néstor Ortigoza cooly converted the penalty kick past goalkeeper Ignacio Don.

Nacional subsequently pressed forward looking for the equalizer and nearly got it before halftime via a blast from Julián Benítez.  The second half saw San Lorenzo hold off wave after wave of attacks by the visiting side.  Substitute Brian Montenegro nearly leveled the score with a golden chance in the 77th minute. Yet bolstered by a boisterous and raucous crowd of 43,000 plus at El Nuevo Gasometro, San Lorenzo held on for a memorable victory.

"This is a historic triumph, we are immensely happy," San Lorenzo coach Edgardo Bauza said following the final whistle.

"The team was very nervous, we didn't play very well, especially in the first half...We had to win it and we did. We found a way," added the Argentine-born coach who previously guided Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito in 2008 to the only triumph of an Ecuadorian team at the Libertadores.

"I wanted to realize the dream of the fans, the one that I've had all my life," admitted Leandro Romagnoli, the lifelong San Lorenzo fan turned veteran midfielder for the team he always supported.

"This hurts because nobody likes to lose," said Don who echoed the criticisms of several of his Nacional teammates and coach Gustavo Morínigo against Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci.  Nevertheless, he added "Glory to God for allowing us to reach (the Libertadores final) despite beIng an unknown team in América."

Both San Lorenzo and Nacional eked their way out of their respective groups in the Libertadores and we're ranked as the two lowest seeds in the knockout stages.  Nacional shocked a pair of Argentine teams and Defensor Sporting of Uruguay during their Cinderella run while San Lorenzo upset former Brazilian Libertadores champs Grêmio and Cruzeiro before thumping Bolivar of Bolivia en route to the title.

El Cuervo is one of the historic giants of Argentine soccer but did not gain global prominence until the ex-Archbishop of Buenos Aires Juan Maria Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March of last year.  A Vatican spokesman said today that the pontiff couldn't watch Wednesday's match while visiting Seoul. However the team has been invited to visit his holiness next week.

"Francis awaits them in Rome," said Mon. Guillermo Karcher from South Korea.

Video Source - YouTube user FootballManiaChannel

Online Sources - Clarin; Diario ABC Color; La Nacion; USA TODAY; The Latin Americanist

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