Sao Paulo, Jun 22 : Penarol coach Diego Aguirre has another chance to secure a place in history when Penarol faces Santos in the Copa Libertadores final on Wednesday.
Aguirre scored an incredible match winner when Penarol won its last Copa Libertadores title 24 years ago, finding the net in the last minute of extra time, when America de Cali fans had already started celebrating the draw. It was the third game of the finals and the draw would have given the title to the Colombian club, but Aguirre got past two America de Cali defenders and fired in a low, left-foot shot.
“I remember it very well,” Aguirre said ahead of Penarol's last practice before Wednesday's match at Pacaembu stadium. “A goal in the last minute of extra time to give us the title in the decisive match—it was incredible.”
Now in the coach's seat, the 45-year-old Aguirre has a chance to guide Penarol to another title, restoring the Uruguayan club as a powerhouse in South America football. He's hopeful history will somehow repeat itself on Wednesday.
“It's a great memory to have, but it's a long time ago,” he said. “Now we have to try to do it again, bring the trophy back to Uruguay.”
Aguirre said he doesn't think he would be able to compare his feat of more than two decades ago with winning the title now, if it were to happen on Wednesday.
“It's different now,” he said. “I was 21 years old then, it's been a long time. As a coach you have a lot more responsibilities, it's different.”
Penarol dominated football in South America in the 1960s and in the 1980s, two spans in which it won all five of its Copa Libertadores titles and reached the final several other times.
But after the title in 1987, the club hadn't been a serious contender until this year's impressive campaign in which it eliminated powerful clubs such as Velez Sarsfield of Argentina, Universidad Catolica of Chile and defending Copa Libertadores champion Internacional of Brazil.
“It would be unbelievable to win the sixth title, it would add another page in the history books for us,” Aguirre said. “We are happy to be in the final and we will try our best to win the title.”
He acknowledges Santos comes into the decisive match as the favorite after holding Penarol to a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Uruguay last week. And in addition to playing in front of its home fans, the Santos squad will include two players touted as future Brazil stars—Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso. Ganso has been cleared to play after a muscle injury that has sidelined him for several weeks.
“They are two great players, but we are worried with the entire Santos team, with Elano and others who are good enough to play in the Brazilian national team,” said Aguirre, who dismissed any notion of a special scheme to contain Neymar and Ganso.
“I have confidence in Penarol,” he said. “We deserve to be in the final, as does Santos. It's going to be a great final, very exciting.” AP