Palmeiras seal last-gasp Copa Libertadores triumph

Soccer Football - Copa Libertadores - Final - Palmeiras v Santos - Estadio Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - January 30, 2021 Palmeiras players celebrate winning the Copa Libertadores with the trophy Pool via REUTERS/Mauro Pimentel

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A dramatic goal eight minutes into stoppage time won Palmeiras the Copa Libertadores on Saturday as a Breno Lopes header earned the Sao Paulo club a 1-0 win over Santos.

The final of South America’s equivalent of Europe's Champions League was played on a roasting hot afternoon in Rio de Janeiro and chances were few and far between.

Just as a lacklustre match looked sure to go to extra-time, however, substitute Lopes timed his jump perfectly at the back post to loop a header into the net.

His goal, moments after Santos coach Cuca was sent off for a touchline fracas only to clamber into the stands to watch the final minutes with those Santos fans allowed in to the match, provoked wild celebrations among Palmeiras supporters who had gathered to view the game in Sao Paulo.

"It's an unforgettable day for me, scoring the goal that wins the Libertadores," said Breno, a 25-year old winger who only joined Palmeiras in November.

"I can't explain the emotions I am feeling."

With the temperature in Rio de Janeiro toping 100 degrees, neither side was able to make an early impact in the final of the continent's blue riband tournament.

Although the game opened up slightly towards the end of the second half, it failed to live up to expectations of TV viewers in 191 countries or the 5,000 specially invited guests who watched the match live at the Maracana.

Victory, however, continued a superb season for Palmeiras and their recently appointed 42-year old coach, Portuguese Abel Ferreira.

The club won the Paulista state championship in August and they play Gremio in the Copa do Brasil final in February.

This was Palmeiras' second Libertadores title - and their first since 1999 - and the third time in four years that a Brazilian team have won South America’s biggest club competition.

The final was originally scheduled to be held in November but the tournament was halted for six months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Palmeiras will pocket $15 million for winning the title match alone and have qualified along with Champions League winners Bayern Munich for the Club World Cup, which is due to start next week in Qatar.

Thousands of fans celebrated in and around the Palmeiras' stadium after the final, chanting and letting off fireworks.

Many were expected to go to Sao Paulo airport to greet the team on their arrival back in the city later on Saturday night.

Earlier in the day, one Corinthians fan was reported dead after gangs of Corinthians and Palmeiras supporters clashed in Sao Paulo, O Globo reported.

(Reporting by Andrew Downie, editing by Ed Osmond)

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