San Lorenzo wins Copa Libertadores for 1st time
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — San Lorenzo of Argentina, Pope Francis’ favorite team, defeated Paraguayan side Nacional 1-0 to win the Copa Libertadores title for the first time Wednesday.
Nestor Ortigoza converted a penalty in the 36th minute to give the club its first major international title in its 106-year history. It clinched the title 2-1 on aggregate. The teams drew 1-1 last week in Paraguay.
San Lorenzo had been the only top Argentine club yet to win Latin America’s most important club competition.
“This is a historic triumph, we are immensely happy,” San Lorenzo coach Edgardo Bauza said.
The team made headlines around the world last year after Francis acknowledged that he is an avid supporter. The Vatican said earlier Wednesday that it was “a special day” for the pope because of the final.
The title secures San Lorenzo, a 12-time Argentine champion playing in its 12th Copa Libertadores, a spot in FIFA’s Club World Cup in December.
The only international titles won by San Lorenzo so far had been the 2001 Copa Mercosul and the 2002 Copa Sudamericana, both second-tier competitions in South America.
In an even match at the packed El Nuevo Gasometro Stadium with neither team taking too many risks, Ortigoza found the net with a firm right-footed shot from the spot after a hand ball by Nacional defender Ramon Coronel.
Nacional’s best scoring chance came just two minutes into the match when Derlis Orue struck the post with a shot from inside the penalty area.
“The team was very nervous, we didn’t play very well, especially in the first half,” said Bauza, who won the Copa Libertadores for the first time with Ecuador’s Liga de Quito in 2008. “We had to win it and we did. We found a way.”
San Lorenzo has one of the biggest fan bases in Argentina. When the club won the league title in Argentina last year, Pope Francis hosted the team in the Vatican and publicly hoisted the trophy in St. Peter’s Square. He also reminisced about going to the stadium as a child with his father to watch the team play.
Nacional, not nearly as popular as country rivals Olimpia and Cerro Porteno, was also seeking the first major international title in its 110-year history. The team had never advanced past the group stage in the other six times it played in the Copa Libertadores. It scored in injury time to avoid a home loss in the first leg last week.
Brazilian clubs have won the last four Copa Libertadores titles. Estudiantes was the last Argentine club to win the competition in 2009 against Brazil’s Cruzeiro.