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Athletico win Copa Sudamericana with acrobatic goal

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MONTEVIDEO, Nov 20 (Infoday) – Athletico Paranaense won their second Copa Sudamericana title on Saturday when they beat Red Bull Bragantino 1-0 in an all-Brazilian final.

Nikao scored the only goal of the game in the first half with an acrobatic scissor kick that earned his club South America’s equivalent of the Europa League.

The trophy, won in front of a sparse crowd at the Centenario stadium in Montevideo, came three years after the Curitiba-based club first won the same title.

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Athletico are now the only Brazilian team to win the title twice.

Next Saturday Flamengo take on Palmeiras in the same stadium in the final of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League.

It was the first time two Brazilian clubs had contested the Sudamericana final and based on league form Bragantino were slight favourites.

Sitting nine places and 11 points ahead of their rivals in Brazil’s Serie A, Bragantino started stronger with Tomas Cuello coming close twice in quick succession around the 20-minute mark, the first almost surprising the goalkeeper direct from a corner kick.

However, it was Athletico that took the lead after 28 minutes thanks to an acrobatic goal from Nikao, the striker who was later voted man-of-the-match.

Goalkeeper Cleiton Schwengber could only parry Miguel Terans’ fierce shot but Nikao reacted intelligently and his scissor kick sneaked in at the far post.

Red Bull Bragantino, a team from a small city near Sao Paulo that was formed in 2020 with the merger of Bragantino and Red Bull Brasil, had more of the possession throughout but their threat was limited mostly to crosses thrown into the box.

Artur saw one shot whizz narrowly wide after an hour for Bragantino, one of 11 attempts that went high and wide, a number far in excess of the two they had on target.

They kept pushing forward and Nicolas Hernandez saw his header flash wide in stoppage time but there was no stopping Athletico.

“We learned to play knockout games, we’ve learned through the years and become more mature,” said Nikao. “We have lots of players who have played in finals, who know the atmosphere.”

The title guarantees Athletico a place in next year’s Copa Libertadores.

“We should be proud of this group,” said Cuello, Bragantino’s Argentine striker. “At one point in the group stage we were a point from being eliminated but we reacted and made it to the final. We kept going and deserve credit for that.”

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Reporting by Andrew Downie, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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