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Flamengo clinch third Copa Libertadores title

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) — Gabriel Barbosa scored a first-half winner as Flamengo secured their third Copa Libertadores title on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Athletico Paranaense in their all-Brazilian final.

Barbosa put his team ahead on the stroke of halftime with a close-range finish, just six minutes after Paranaense defender Pedro Henrique was sent off for picking up his second yellow card.

It marked Flamengo’s second Libertadores trophy in four years and earned them a place in the next FIFA Club World Cup, expected to be held in February.

The result at Guayaquil’s Monumental stadium dashed hopes of a fairytale ending to the career of Paranaense’s 73-year-old manager Luiz Felipe Scolari. The man who guided Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title in Japan and South Korea said earlier this month that Saturday’s showdown would likely be his last final.

“It’s a fantastic feeling to have won this competition again,” veteran Flamengo central defender David Luiz said after the match.

“It’s not easy to win the Copa Libertadores and this achievement shows the club’s greatness. We found it hard to find scoring chances today because they [Paranaense] play with such a low defensive block. But we eventually found a way and got the result we deserve,” added the former Chelsea, Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain player.

Both teams struggled for cohesion early, seemingly flustered by the occasion and temperatures that exceeded 30 degrees Celsius. But it was Paranaense that had the better of the early chances. Vitinho shot just wide of the target after Khellven Oliveira’s pass and Alex Santana sent a shot over the bar, having outwitted Luis following Vitinho’s long throw in.

Paranaense were reduced to 10 men in the 44th minute when Henrique earned his second booking for scything down Ayrton Medeiros. The defender’s dismissal prompted an immediate shift in momentum as Flamengo took control.

The Rio de Janeiro outfit went ahead in the 49th minute following a slick interchange between Ribeiro and defender Rodinei. Ribeiro then sent a sumptuous cross from the right side of the penalty box into the path of Barbosa, whose left-footed effort at the far post left goalkeeper Bento Krepski with no chance.

Flamengo continued to dominate after halftime. Pedro dos Santos and Ribeiro both shot over the bar and Giorgian de Arrascaeta’s dangerous header was saved by Krepski.

Paranaense had few clear-cut chances thereafter as Flamengo clung to their ninth consecutive Libertadores victory and remained undefeated throughout the campaign.

Pedro was named player of the tournament, having scored 12 goals in 13 outings, while Ribeiro was given the man of the match award.