The trophy was won by way of a 2-1 win in Belo Horizonte against Cruzeiro. Henrique had given A Raposa an early second half lead with a deflected long range effort in the 52nd minute and it appeared the party was about to start for the boys in blue. But desire burned deep inside Estudiantes and they would not be beaten. Unfazed, they hit back five minutes later. Veron’s sumptuous pass found Cellay on the right and he crossed for Gastón Fernández to bundle home an equaliser.
Veron was stifled in the first leg, part carrying a knock, part snuffed out by Cruzeiro’s tactics. But with the pendulum swinging Cruzeiro’s way after a 0-0 draw in La Plata nobody was more determined than he to ensure this opportunity did not slip away. In Belo Horizonte he played with intelligence, craft and immense heart. Desperation etched into his brow.
Again, as he has done so often throughout an illustrious career, la Brujita ran the show with his extraordinary vision and incisive passing, dictating play when the Argentines needed him most. If Estudiantes is Emu, Juan Sebastien Veron is most definitely their Rod Hull – he brings them to life. At the final whistle he fell to the floor in emotional exhaustion, tears of joy pouring down his face.
To liken the new kings of South America to a lifeless puppet however is doing them great disservice. Mauro Boselli, rejected by Boca, was a key man throughout the competition providing firepower upfront. Gaston ‘la Gata’ Fernandez was instrumental in the final. Mariano Andujar, a tour de force in goal through Estudiantes’ run, now leaves La Plata for Serie A and Catania.
No, Sabella’s men are no mugs. It’s just that Veron completes them, like that broad does Jerry Maguire. He brings cohesion, not to forget leadership also. These characteristics have proved crucial in Estudiantes’ 4th Copa Libertadores (which puts them behind only Boca, Penarol and Independiente in the all-time list).
Poor Brazil. For the second season running an expectant Brazilian home crowd gathered en masse to witness their team deliver a Copa Libertadores crown. And for the second season running, it failed to materialise. Last year Fluminense thought they had the title in the bag. All they had to do was show up against LDU Quito. So they thought. For Cruzeiro it is a crushing blow, but ultimately they lacked experience at a crucial time having gone a goal up.
Before the final, Alejandro Sabella showed the team a compilation of family goodwill messages and imagery of Estudiantes and the club’s fans, hoping to inspire his troops. It worked. The squad now return to La Plata forever heroes. 1968, 1969, 1970 and 2009: iEstudiantes Campeon!