Champions crowned in South America
© AFP

Corinthians, Boca Juniors and Nacional all tasted glory in their respective leagues in an exciting weekend of action in South America. Brazilian football paid tribute to Socrates, who passed away at the weekend, while in Mexico, Tigres Monterrey and Santos Laguna emerged as the two teams that will battle it out in next week’s Mexican Apertura final.

Brazil: Corinthians clinch fifth title, remember a legend
Corinthians’ fans thought the title was theirs as they watched their side edge towards victory against Figueirense last week. However, championship rivals Vasco de Gama grabbed a late goal against Fluminese to ensure that the title race would go all the way to the final matchday.

The supporters were once again celebrating before the end of their match against arch-rivals Palmeiras at the weekend, but this time there were to be no unwanted surprises. Vasco needed to win and hope for a Corinthians defeat if they were to clinch the title, but they could only manage a 1-1 draw against Flamengo. This meant that Corinthians’ goalless draw with Palmeiras was enough, and their fans were finally able to celebrate winning their fifth league title.

There was a great deal of emotion on display after the match as Corinthians’ fans and players celebrated the title triumph. Speaking after the game, midfielder Alex said that his side’s togetherness in the dressing room had been the key to their success. “We’re a real team, and you can only achieve big things if you have this kind of togetherness in the group,” he said.

Flamengo finished fourth to book their place in next year’s Copa Libertadores along with Fluminese, who ended the campaign in third. At the other end of the table, Avai, America MG, Ceara and Atletico Paranaense were all relegated. Aside from the excitement of the title race, the final round of matches featured no fewer than seven derbies. The most notable results were Internacional’s 1-0 win over Gremio, and Cruzeiro’s 6-1 rout of Atletico Mineiro – a win that secures A Raposa’s top-flight status for another season.

The weekend also featured a moving tribute to Brazilian legend Socrates. The former Corinthians hero was honoured with a minute’s silence, during which the Timao’s players held their fists in the air, imitating the gesture “the doctor” made each time he took to the field.

Argentina: Boca seal title and maintain unbeaten record
As expected, Boca juniors were crowned champions for the first time in three years, cruising to the title with two matchdays to spare. The ease of their triumph is unusual, given that Argentinian fans are used to seeing the Apertura championship go all the way down to the wire. Boca finished the campaign unbeaten, and coach Julio Cesar Falcioni will no doubt be delighted with his side’s efforts.

Boca were emphatic 3-0 winners at home to Banfield, with two goals from ex-Taladro man Dario Cvitanich and another courtesy of Diego Rivero. The result gave Boca an unassailable lead over chasers Racing and Tigre, and sealed their 24th league title with two matchdays still to play. More than 50,000 fans packed La Bombonera to celebrate the victory, which will see Boca return to the Copa Libertadores after a two-year absence. Juan Roman Riquelme had been struggling with injuries, but he managed to enter the action in the second half and make the 600th appearance of his career.

Other notable results from the weekend include Racing’s 2-0 victory against Colon, and a 1-1 draw between Independiente and Newell’s Old Boys.

Mexico: Tigres and Santos reach final
Santos Laguna and Tigres will battle it out in the Mexican Apertura final, after the two sides won their respective semi-finals at the weekend.

Santos lost 2-1 away to Morelia in the first leg of their semi-final, but recorded a 3-2 victory in front of their home fans to book their place in the final. The 4-4 aggregate scoreline was enough to see Santos through, owing to the fact that they finished higher in the table than Morelia at the end of the regular season. Tigres join Santos in the final thanks to a 1-0 win over Queretaro, a result that proved sufficient after their goalless draw in the first leg of their semi-final.

The final will see two coaches with contrasting philosophies go head-to-head. Santos’s attack-minded coach Benjamin Galindo will pit his wits against the more experienced Tigres boss Ricardo Ferretti, who has not been out of work since the start of his managerial career in 1991. Ferretti will be looking to win his fourth title as a coach, and his second in charge of Tigres.

Elsewhere
In Uruguay, Nacional de Montevideo won the Apertura championship to hand rookie coach Marcelo Gallardo his first success just months after he took the reins at the club. Veteran forward Alvaro Recoba scored the winner in a 1-0 win away to fellow Montevideo outfit Liverpool at the legendary Estadio Centenario. Recoba had scored a decisive penalty in the Montevideo clásico against Penarol just a few weeks earlier. Elsewhere in the league, Danubio kept their title chances alive by thrashing Bella Vista, but their hopes were ultimately dashed with Nacional avoiding a slip-up against Liverpool. As for Penarol, they recorded a resounding 5-0 victory against Cerrito but also fell short in their title bid.

Finally in Chile, there were championship quarter-final first-leg victories for Cobreloa, Universidad Catolica, Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile. The latter extended their unbeaten record with a 1-0 victory away to Union Espanola.