Colón have never played in a continental final and no one would have predicted that this year’s Copa Sudamericana would be the turning point yet on Thursday evening, El Sabalero snatched a 90th minute away goal in Belo Horizonte to force a penalty shootout and subsquently dumped out Atlético Mineiro.
The other surprise story of this year, Independiente del Valle had already booked their place on Wednesday evening and so the underdog final in Asunción on November 9th will see history made for one of these two clubs.
Leading 2-1 from the first leg in Santa Fe, Colón were second best for large parts in Belo Horizonte and aside from Igor Rabello clearing off the line with the use of his shoulder, it was the visitors goal most under threat.
Franco Di Santo eventually broke the deadlock and ahead on the night, Atlético were now in front in the tie courtesy of their goal in Argentina.
When a lightning-quick counter attack saw Yimmi Chará double the lead soon after the break it didn’t change things a great deal for Colón though there was a sense that hopes of reaching the final were slipping away for Pablo Lavallén’s side.
Atlético simply had to see it out and with Colón struggling to create any clear-cut chances that looked likely until Elías stuck out a boot and tripped Wilson Morelo eight minutes from time. Luis Rodríguez stepped up and struck his penalty low and hard sending Cleiton the wrong way. The vital away goal forcing the tie to penalties.
An early save from Cleiton in the shootout put Colón on the backfoot but when Leonardo Burián saved from Rever to level it up, Rodríguez stepped forward once more. The cult of El Pulga has been growing since leading Atlético Tucumán into the latter stages of the Copa Libertadores but rolling in the fifth penalty with a big smile on his face drew a legion of new followers.
Atlético had to score to remain in the tie and Burián again guessed correctly saving from Juan Cazares to seal victory.
For whichever side lifts the title in Asunción it will be the greatest moment in the clubs’ history and while this year’s Copa Sudamericana may not have delivered any of the established big names in South American football it has served up a final of genuine intrigue and romance.
⚫🔴 ¡Noche histórica de @ColonOficial en Brasil!
— CONMEBOL Sudamericana (@Sudamericana) September 27, 2019