Liga de Quito had never come close to winning a continental crown heading into 2008. The team from La Casa Blanca (The White House) have emphatically changed that.
They were, indeed, the unforeseen conquerors of the Copa Libertadores in 2008, the following year’s Copa Sudamericana, and the South American Super Cup in both 2009 and 2010.
Central to those successes were some outstanding results in the Ecuadorian capital, including a 4-0 reverse of Lanus, a 7-0 thrashing of River Plate, and 5-1 win over Fluminense. Such performances in Quito often allowed LDU to overturn disappointing outcomes on their travels.
And that has been the theme of their Copa Sudamericana 2011 campaign. Indeed, in both the last 16 and the quarter-finals, Edgardo Bauza’s side won at home and lost away but ultimately did enough to advance. True to form, they beat Velez Sarsfield 2-0 – despite weathering a storm – in the first leg of their semi-final last week, which meant that if they scored in Buenos Aires last night, the Argentinians would need to win by three or more goals to deny their hosts a place in the decider.
Liga didn’t just score at El Fortín (The Little Fort), but they kept a clean sheet to ease through 3-0 over 180 minutes. The Quito outfit had completed a minor upset on aggregate and a major upset on the night.
“I’m extremely proud of my players,” said Bauza, a former Velez coach who guided LDU to the aforementioned Libertadores conquest. “This is more than just a feat. We blocked all of Velez’s routes to goal, which is what we set out to do beforehand, and we didn’t abandon our own attacking instincts.
“I’m delighted with the character we showed. We’re now in another final and this is a great joy. I toast all the Liga fans who have to enjoy this.”
The principal recipient of the supporters’ adulation was Argentinian striker Hernan Barcos, who scored all of LDU’s goals in the 3-0 aggregate victory. Bauza, however, reserved special praise for goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez, who thwarted Velez on a number of occasions last night.
“He was a key figure, he made two or three big saves,” said the 53-year-old, who left the Liga helm in 2009 for a brief stint at Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia, before returning to the Quito club last year. “But the defence also deserves praise – they allowed Velez very few clear chances.”
LDU will now await the winners of tonight’s second semi-final, second leg between Universidad de Chile and Vasco da Gama. The Santiago outfit are the favourites following a 1-1 draw in Rio de Janeiro last week.
The Copa Sudamericana 2011 champions will earn a place in next year’s Copa Libertadores.