There are surely more twists and turns to come in the 2017 Copa Sudamericana final but Independiente will take a slender one-goal lead to the famous Maracanã next week after coming from behind to defeat Flamengo in Avellaneda.
A sold-out Estadio Libertadores de América expectantly awaited a first final since 2010 with supporters eager to put the recent years of anguish behind them with another international trophy.
This impatience appeared to filter onto the pitch in the early stages as El Rojo’s passing was rushed and imprecise. As a result it was Flamengo who drew first blood as a free kick from the left was powerfully headed into the net by towering centre back Réver.
Independiente had fallen behind to Libertad in their semi final first leg after only 20 seconds but unlike in Asunción, Flamengo’s opener seemed to shock El Rojo into action.
The passing began to find its target and Ezequiel Barco, Maxi Meza and Martín Benitez started to probe the visiting defence with darting runs around centre forward Emmanuel Gigliotti.
A last ditch block denied Juan Sánchez Miño and Gastón Silva forced a save from César but after 28 minutes the equaliser arrived. Meza thread a disguised pass into the feet of Benítez and under pressure he cut the ball inside for Gigliotti to find the bottom corner.
Independiente were rampant and finished the half looking for a second but if Flamengo were hoping that the half time break would disrupt the momentum, it didn’t.
El Rojo remained on top and it wasn’t long before the home side led. Ezequiel Barco darted down the left, his cross found Maxi Meza unmarked the edge of the box and the in-form midfielder volleyed unerringly past César.
As the minutes passed Independiente began to drop deeper and Flamengo were once more in the ascendency but despite carrying a threat it rarely converted into clear chances. Second half substitute Fernando Amorebieta was penalised for a sliding challenge on the edge of the box which halted a Flamengo break but from the resulting free kick, Martín Campaña was able to make a routine save.
El Rojo held on for the victory and with no away goals rule in the final, carry a slight advantage to Brazil next Wednesday.
Flamengo certainly showed enough that the tie is far from over despite suffering their first defeat in the tournament but Ariel Holan has the weapons in his pacy, dynamic side to hurt the Mengão on the counter.