I daresay the party in the Buenos Aires barrio of Boedo is still rocking after Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro finally put an end to their wait for a Copa Libertadores. No longer will they be known as Club Atlético Sin Libertadores de América by the rest of the ‘Big Five’ in Argentina as last night, El Ciclón claimed the biggest prize in South American football. Néstor Ortigoza’s stuttered but assured penalty was all it took to crown the biggest night in the club’s history.
Some may claim that San Lorenzo’s metoric rise over the past couple of years is the work of a higher power given that Pope Francis is a life-long supporter but even the pontiff himself must scarcely believe that his side are now Copa Libertadores champions.
Two years ago, San Lorenzo were being managed by Caruso Lombardi and celebrating a relegation playoff victory to remain in the top flight. Riddled with debt, playing in a stadium outside their traditional home of Boedo, San Lorenzo were in a rather dark place. However, under president, Matías Lammens and vice-president, Marcelo Tinelli, El Ciclón have won the 2013 Clausura, negotiated a return to the spiritual home and now added the greatest achievement in the long history of one of Argentina’s biggest clubs.
Last night’s second leg was by no means a classic but a much improved Nacional performance looked at various points as though San Lorenzo’s profligacy in last week’s first leg might be punished.
The Paraguayan visitors were the busier side in the opening 45 minutes and feverishly closed down San Lorenzo but it was the home side that took the lead and scored what turned out to be the decisive goal. Ramón Coronel handled the ball in the 36th minute and the referee pointed to the spot. Néstor Ortigoza doesn’t miss penalties (ok he has missed one in his career) and despite looking uneasy and stuttering up to the ball in slow motion, he stroked the ball past Ignacio Don unerringly.
Néstor Ortigoza and his midfield partner, Juan Mercier were superb, as they have been for what seems like an age. Primera champions with Argentinos Juniors and then repeating the feat with San Lorenzo shows just what a formidable pair they are in the centre. San Lorenzo will now say goodbye to a number of players but keeping these two will still see them very difficult to beat.
One player who had already departed and missed the second leg was perhaps one reason that San Lorenzo were not quite so effective going forward. Ignacio Piatti has been key to the recent success but having completed a move to Montreal Impact, Piatti had to move to his new club between the two legs of the Final.
Talented youngster, Ángel Correa had also already completed a move to Atlético Madrid but special mention has to go to San Lorenzo captain and supporter, Leandro Romagnoli, who waved a tearful goodbye to the Gasómetro. The 33-year-old won the Primera title back in 2001 with the club but last night puts Pipi, the boyhood fan, in the history books as one of San Lorenzo’s greatest players. He moves now to Bahia in Brazil but with the best possible send off a player could dream of.
San Lorenzo’s form in the Nuevo Gasómetro has been incredible, which is just as while given that they are the first team since São Paulo in 1993 to win the Copa Libertadores without winning a single away match. El Ciclón scraped out of their group in fortuitous circumstance, making them the second lowest seeds (Nacional were the lowest) but the 1-1 draw in the group against Unión Española was the only time San Lorenzo conceded a goal.
One-nil wins over Grêmio and Cruzeiro and then a five-goal demolition of Bolívar at home made the route to the Final possible. Manager, Edgardo Bauza should take enormous credit for the organisation and solidity exhibited, as he further enhances his own credentials. This is the 56-year-olds second Libertadores title after leading Liga de Quito to their maiden victory in 2008. Already mentioned as a possible national team manager in the recent weeks, Bauza’s stock continues to rise.
Such is the transitory nature of South American football, San Lorenzo’s rise could just as quickly fall with such a high turnover of talented players but with the fireworks still lighting up the Buenos Aires skyline, this is a night for the fans to savour.
There is still the prospect of a December meeting with Real Madrid in the World Club Championships to look forward to but the players and the supporters will remember the night of August 13th for a long time yet.
San Lorenzo 1 – 0 Nacional (AGG 2 -1)