Atletico Mineiro claim Copa glory

Ronaldinho shines as Brazilians snag first Copa Libertadores victory against Paraguay's Olimpia after penalty shootout.

    Atletico Mineiro claim Copa glory
    The final went to penalties in front of 60,000 fans at the Mineirao Stadium [AFP]

    Ronaldinho added a Copa Libertadores title to his collection of honours as Brazil's Atletico Mineiro defeated Paraguay's Olimpia in a penalty shootout to win the continental club championship on Wednesday.

    Trailing 2-0 after the first leg, Atletico needed an 87th-minute goal by defender Leonardo Silva to draw level, after striker Jo had scored at the start of the second half.

    After a goalless extra time, goalkeeper Victor used his feet to stop the first penalty in the shootout by Herminio Miranda, and Matias Gimenez hit a post with the final spot kick to give Atletico their first major international title.

    Former two-time world player of the year Ronaldinho thrived internationally with Barcelona and Brazil, winning the Champions League and the 2002 World Cup, but had craved the South American title since returning home in 2011.

    "This is why I came back to Brazil,'' Ronaldinho said.

    "Not long ago people were saying that I was done, but we showed today that isn't the case.''

    Tight contest

    Alecsandro, Guilherme, Jo and Leonardo Silva scored for the Brazilian club in the shootout. Juan Ferreyra, Salustiano Candia and Lorenzo Aranda converted their penalties for Olimpia, who were trying to win their fourth Copa Libertadores title, and first since 2002.

    Olimpia, who also won the competition in 1979 and 1990, played a man down from the 85th after defender Julio Cesar Manzur was sent off with a second yellow card.

    Jo, the tournament's leading scorer with seven goals, had opened the scoring in the 46th with a right-footed shot after a cross by Rosinei, who had just entered the match as a half-time substitute.

    Ferreyra had a golden chance to score a late away goal for Olimpia and virtually end the contest as he dribbled past Victor on a breakaway and had the open net in front of him, but slipped and fell, allowing the goalkeeper to recover.

    "You can't miss so many chances in a Copa final,'' Olimpia coach Ever Almeida said.

    With nearly 60,000 fans at the Mineirao Stadium chanting "We believe, we believe,'' Atletico made the most of that reprieve as Leonardo Silva rose above the defenders to head a cross into the far corner and make it 2-2 on aggregate, sending the game to extra time.

    Leonardo Silva had already struck the crossbar with a header in the 61st, and fellow defender Rever also hit the bar in the first half of extra time.

    Olimpia's best chance after 90 minutes came with midfielder Wilson Pittoni, who missed just wide with a free kick.

    Atletico are traditionally one of the power clubs in Brazil but they had not had a lot of success recently. They were runners-up to Fluminense in last year's Brazilian championship, but their lone league title came in 1971.

    Internationally, they only won the 1992 and 1997 CONMEBOL Cup, which was similar to the current Copa Sudamericana as the continent's second-string continental competition.

    It was the ninth straight year that at least one Brazilian team made the final, and Brazilian clubs have won the past four titles. Corinthians won it last year, Santos did it in 2011 and Internacional in 2010.

    Victor had also made the decisive save in the shootout against Newell's Old Boys of Argentina in the semi-finals, when Atletico Mineiro also erased a 2-0 first leg loss. The goalkeeper was key in the quarter-finals too, when he made a stoppage-time penalty save against Tijuana of Mexico to allow Atletico to stay alive in the competition.

    "If feels even better to win it like this,'' Victor said.

    "We had to go through a lot to get to where we are now.''



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