For 89 minutes it was perfect for River Plate. Rafael Santos Borré’s first half goal looked to be enough as Marcelo Gallardo’s side kept Flamengo at arms length until Gabriel Barbosa turned the game with two late goals to win the Brazilians their second Copa Libertadores title.
For all of Flamengo’s attacking firepower, including the tournament’s leading scorer Gabigol, River were comfortable for long periods in Lima. The suffocating press hadn’t allowed Flamengo a second and when Santos Borré fired the Millonarios in front after quarter of an hour, it was just reward for a bright first half.
It arguably should have been more. Neither side were particularly good in possession but River carried the threat countering at speed and coming close to a second, first through Nicolás De La Cruz, and then a stinging long range effort from Exequiel Palacios that whistled just wide of the post.
At some point, Flamengo had to go for it and yet aside from a blocked Gabigol effort with Franco Armani saving Everton Ribeiro’s follow up, River didn’t look in trouble.
Gallardo had made his three substitutions, Julián Álvarez, Lucas Pratto and Paulo Díaz all on the pitch for the closing minutes as River simply sought to see out the time. It looked increasingly likely that Muñeco would be guiding the club to yet another title but when Pratto carelessly lost possession a minute from time, Flamengo broke, Bruno Henrique slipped in Giorgian de Arrascaeta and the Uruguayan squared for Gabigol to tap in.
River were stunned and before they could come to terms with the late equaliser, Flamengo snatched victory. Gabigol, who had been silenced by Javier Pinola all afternoon, muscled the veteran defender off a long ball over the top and as it fell on to his left boot, it was dispatched mercilessly past Armani.
There was still time for some handbags that saw Exequiel Palacios and two-goal here Gabigol sent off but it didn’t matter. Flamengo were Copa Libertadores champions, for the first time since their maiden triumph in 1981.