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Boca win Libertadores Cup for second year running

© Reuters Limited 2001

By Brian Homewood

BUENOS AIRES, June 28 (Reuters) - Boca Juniors, Argentine's most popular club, won the South American Libertadores Cup for the second year running on Thursday when they beat Mexico's Cruz Azul 3-1 in a penalty shootout.

It was a cruel end for the Mexicans, who outplayed Boca in front of their own fans on the way to winning the second leg of the final 1-0 and levelling the aggregate score at 1-1.

Cruz Azul striker Juan Francisco Palencia stunned the 60,000 crowd by firing home four minutes into first half injury time, his seventh goal of the competition, to hand Boca only their sixth defeat in 66 home Libertadores matches.

But the crowd erupted after the Mexican team missed three penalties - two of which were fired wide and once of which was saved by goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba - and Boca won the shootout.

It was Boca's fourth Libertadores title, putting them behind compatriots Independiente, who have seven, and Uruguay's Penarol, who have five. Last year, they also won on penalties.

"This is one of the happiest moments of my life since I started playing the game of football," said Boca midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme.

Play Interrupted
Play was interrupted for six minutes early in the first half when teargas, used by police to disperse angry fans unable to get into the ground, drifted across the pitch.

The game had been rated a formality for Boca after they won the first leg in Mexico 1-0 last week.

But Cruz Azul, the first Mexican club to reach the final in the three years since teams from their country were invited to take part, quickly took control as the home side appeared content to sit back on their lead.

Victor Gutierrez hit the post with a low shot from outside the penalty area and Cordoba was forced to made two good saves.

At the other end, Boca's best effort came when Juan Roman Riquelme wriggled through the defence but his final pass was cut out by goalkeeper Oscar Perez.

The Mexicans were rewarded four minutes into first half injury time when Palencia scored after Jose Cardozo pulled the ball back across the goal after intercepting a corner at the near post.

His goal came one minute after Boca's Anibal Matellan headed wide from close range, wasting an excellent chance for the home team.

Boca had another chance at the start of the second half when Marcelo Delgado headed wide from a Riquelme free kick but the Mexicans continue to play the better football and again hit the post from a Julio Cesar Pinheiro free kick.

Boca depended heavily on set pieces to create chances and relied exclusively on the talents of Riquelme in midfield.

Riquelme, possibly playing his last game for Boca, was twice denied an equaliser by excellent saves from Cruz Azul goalkeeper Oscar Perez in the closing minutes.

Both teams converted their first penalties but Cruz Azul lived upto Mexico's poor reputation in penalty shootouts, then missed their next three efforts.

Police managed to avoid the traditional pitch invasions which follow title-deciding matches in Argentina and Boca were able to complete a rare lap of honour.

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