| Diego Cagna, captain of Boca Juniors of Argentina, after winning the Libertadores Cup in Sao Paulo Thursday. (AFP)
Sao Paulo: Boca Juniors, Argentina’s most popular club, won the South American Libertadores Cup for the third time in four years by beating Brazilian champions Santos 3-1 in the second leg of the final on Wednesday.
Nineteen-year-old striker Carlos Tevez effectively killed off the tie when he gave visitors Boca, who won the first leg 2-0, a 21st-minute lead.
Pele’s former club equalised with a long-range shot by defender Alex in the 75th minute but their fightback ended nine minutes later after a brilliantly taken goal by Marcelo Delgado, his ninth of the championship.
Rolando Schiavi added a penalty in the fifth minute of injury time.
Santos players furiously protested the decision, awarded for a vicious, double-footed challenge by goalkeeper Fabio Costa, and in the confusion, captain Paulo Almeida grabbed Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda’s yellow card and showed it to him.
Boca coach Carlos Bianchi, who led the team to the title in 2000 and 2001 and Velez Sarsfield in 1994, became the first coach to win the trophy four times.
Santos, needing to win by two goals to send the final to penalties, made a lively start but missed two good early chances.
The game could have veered in a different direction if a seventh-minute header by Alex had gone in. Instead, the ball was cleared off the line by Javier Villareal with goalkeeper Roberto Abbondancieri beaten.
Santos striker Robinho then had a clear header but missed the target. Diego also had a penalty appeal rejected after he appeared to be pushed.
Boca, who had already come close with a Delgado shot, struck a hammer blow in the 21st minute when Tevez scored with a first-time shot after a quick exchange of passes with Sebastian Battaglia.
Santos, who never reproduced the flowing football which took them through to the final, threatened a fightback when Alex scored with a 30-metre drive which went in off the post.
But they were left exposed as they threw themselves onto the attack and Delgado took full advantage, breaking clear to score from nearly 40 metres after Fabio Costa rushed off his line.
Schiavi finished off the job in the 95th minute after more rash behaviour by the huge Santos goalkeeper.
Boca coach Carlos Bianchi heaped praise on his players after they clinched the club’s fifth Libertadores Cup title.
“Boca are the best team there is,” Bianchi told reporters after the visitors beat the Brazilian champions 5-1 on aggregate and avenge defeat by the same opponents in the final 40 years ago.
“We won deservedly,” he said. “It was an important match against a good team and we played the way we should have, closing down the spaces.”
Bianchi also attempted to bury his differences with arch-rivals River Plate, who had fans supporting Santos rather than their neighbours.
“All Argentine football fans should recognise one thing, which is that we are representing our country,” he said.
“We have to say Argentina, not Boca Juniors.”
Boca’s victory put them level with Uruguay’s Penarol as the second most successful team in the competition’s history. Argentina’s Independiente hold the record with seven titles.
Santos coach Emerson Leao, whose club won in 1962 and 1963, agreed that Boca deserved to triumph.
“We have to recognise this and that’s why, with two minutes left to play, I went to their coach to congratulate him,” said Leao.
“I’m proud of these players, even in defeat,” added Leao, whose team has an average age of less than 23. “We made mistakes but they were caused by our opponents.
“This is a sad, bitter day but we are aware we represented Brazil, everyone would like to be in this final. We’ve done a lot in these six months for Santos.”
He said his young team, which included teenage duo Robinho and Diego, would learn from the pain of defeat.
“It will do them good,” he said. “It will give them another dose of wisdom. They are very young and they will still win a lot of Libertadores’ in the future.”