The year and the players have changed, but the story remains the same.
For the second year in a row, Palmeiras knocked Corinthians out of Copa Libertadores on penalties. Once again, Corinthians had better squad, but didn't have the will to win. This time there was no hero, but one villain: Marcelinho Carioca. The most hated player in Brazil missed the final penalty to give Palmeiras the shootout win, 5-4.
This was nearly a repeat from last year's battle in the quarterfinals, when each team won a match by 2-0 but Palmeiras advanced on penalties. This time there ware none of Marcos' miracles or even Dida?s great saves.
The offenses performed very well, and scored 12 times in two matches.
Corinthians won the first leg, 4-3, on May 30. It was a wonderful game, with both teams attacking from start to finish. Corinthians had the chance to put the series out of reach after going up, 3-1, but Palmeiras' determination overcame Corinthians' technique, and they tied the score, 3-3. Vampeta scored the winner for Corinthians in the last minute.
With Corinthians taking that one-goal advantage into the second leg, even Palmeiras fans thought qualifying for the final be an impossible feat. Once again, though,as has happened many times this year, the Palmeiras players and coach believed in victory, and that's enough for this brave team to win.
During the week, Palmeiras coach Luis Felipe Scolari was caught by the press telling his players to spit on Edilson and to be more violent in the match. Edilson is a Corinthians player who likes to dribble for the sole purpose of irritating his opponents. After this revelation, everyone approached the match like it was war, but what we saw on the field Tuesday was just brilliant soccer and a will to win.
Palmeiras opened the match looking to get on the board first, and they succeeded, as Euller scored in the 35th minute to put them ahead, 1-0.
Corinthians got the goal back just four minutes later, however, with a strike from Luizao.
After halftime, Corinthians came out in better form and took a 2-1 lead 10 minutes in on Luizao?s second goal of the match. At that point, Corinthians led by two goals on aggregate and stood on the brink of a berth in the final. But the same thing that happened both last year and last week proved to be Corinthians? downfall once again: the team got too fancy and looked for only the most beautiful of goals.
The result, of course, was that Palmeiras were able to claw back and tie the match on a goal by Alex in the 60th minute. Galeano then scored in the 72nd minute to send the match to penalties.
In the shootout, Palmeiras converted all five of their penalties, while Corinthians scored on four of their penalties. The final shot came down to Marcelinho Carioca, the man sixth-leading scorer in Corinthians history and a player with many titles to his name. Just as he did in the FIFA Club World Championship, however, he disappointed the crowd by missing the deciding penalty.
The problem this time was that it meant elimination at the hands of Corinthians' biggest rivals. Marcelinho, voted by Brazilian fans as the most hated player, now must be a unanimous choice in this category, as many Corinthians fans tried to get him after the game.
Palmeiras now are headed to their second straight Libertadores final, and they are hoping to book a trip to Tokyo at the end of the year to face Real Madrid in the Toyota Cup.
It was a memorable night in Brazilian soccer -- the greatest game in the history of Palmeiras, the saddest night in Corinthians history and a defeat that everyone wanted. Now the myth of the unbeatable team has been shattered. The whole Brazilian population, with the exception of Corinthians fans, were waiting for this week, when Corinthians were knocked out of three competitions and ended their action for the first half of the year. I can tell you that 90% of the Brazilian population woke up smiling today.
But this game is not enough to make a Brazilian soccer week. There are several important matches to be played this coming weekend: Sao Paulo and Santos play the first leg of the Campeonato Paulista final; in Rio de Janeiro, Flamengo only need a draw to make the final against Vasco; in Minas Gerais, Atletico Mineiro and Cruzeiro play the second leg of their state championship final; and Atletico Paranaense and Coritiba start the final of Campeonato Paranaense on Sunday.