Vélez fell again to Flamengo, at the Maracaná stadium by 2-1, after losing 4 to 0 in the first leg match in Liniers, and said goodbye to this Wednesday night of the contest in the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores.
And now there will be a new final between Brazilian teamsthe third in a row, next October 29 in the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil, when the red and black Flamengo and Athlético Paranaense will face each other, who on Tuesday night eliminated, by the other semifinal, their also compatriot, the two-time champion Palmeiras.
Vélez played in the Maracaná with an alternative team in the way he should have done at home with the starters in the first leg, because surely that way they could have faced a more even series and would have arrived with a certain chance at this rematch.
Perhaps the mitigating factor was that tonight he knew about his rival what he did not know seven days ago, in addition to the fact that those led by Dorival Junior also came out to play with some important absences, such as that of Gabriel Barbosa “Gabigol”.
Within this panorama then, those led by the Uruguayan Alexander Medina did not favor the defensive game of the first game but tried to give balance to the development of their game, seeking to attack, well out of inexcusable necessity, but also because of a conviction to dare to dispute the ball, the spaces and the consequent protagonism to his lofty adversary.
This was, on the other hand, the least that the more than 4,000 Velez fans who came to Rio de Janeiro deserved, many of them traveling by bus for two days to see their team, as they themselves confessed before the match, “for love of colors”, the only possible synthesis to justify such a journey after 0-4 in the first leg.
And that is why Lucas Pratto’s goal in the 21st minute of the initial stage in the best “Bear” style, in advance after a low and precise center by Nicolás Garayalde after stripping the Uruguayan Giorgian De Arrascaeta of the ball, was like a caress to the soul and heart of the ‘forttineros’ fans, who even dared to celebrate as if the dream of a comeback that had gone down in the annals of Libertadores history was still possible.
And for more than 20 minutes after that conquest, that flickering hope remained alive, until the “executioner of Liniers”, Pedro, author of three of the four goals in the first game and top scorer in this competition with 12 goals, headed an “impossible” ball to beat Leonardo Buriánthe Uruguayan former Colón, replacing Lucas Hoyos.
That is why Vélez, despite going out to play with almost no chances in the second half, never faded his intentions of going after the goal defended by Santos, as if his players had blinders so as not to notice the result or the environment of more than 60,000 flamenguistas who did not stop shouting.
That nobility and chivalry of the boys (for the most part) from Vélez so as not to resort to evil arts or the resentment of “lost for lost”, also deserved some other wink of the circumstances as to ingratiate themselves with their people, who were no longer alone in the large stands of the Maracana, but had the virtual support of Flamengo’s classic rival, Fluminense, who gave rise to the colors of their tricolor alternative jersey, through various red, green and white flags.
But halfway through this final stage, Pedro was inspired again and allowed the admitted Marinho, formerly Santos, to show off with a high left foot, entering the large area, which stuck against the upper right corner of the goal defended by Burián.
Vélez was not daunted, however, and continued to go with the utmost dignity until the end, which surprised him by receiving the gratitude and recognition of his people, who for a few moments ended up taking over the atmosphere of the “world’s largest stadium” with a recognizable song of love for his club, for his team and for the colors blue and white.
“I’m from Vélez, it’s a feeling, I can’t stop…”, was what ended up closing the night at the Maracana together with Pablo’s goal disallowed (he scored a header) due to an advanced position at the request of the VAR.
And so the participation of Vélez in this Copa Libertadores was also closed. The Argentine team that went the furthest in this 2022 edition.
Although the finals have been repeated between Brazilian teams for three years and this already marks a trend that is worrying for Argentine football.