SAO PAULO (AP) — Barcelona of Ecuador advanced to the Copa Libertadores semifinals by the narrowest of margins to prevent a complete Brazilian domination of the final four.
Stopping a Brazilian club clinching the title will only get harder for the underdogs.
The Ecuadorian club advanced on away goals after a 1-1 home draw with Brazil’s Fluminense on Thursday following a 2-2 draw last week in Rio de Janeiro.
Mastriani opened the scoring in Guayaquil in the 73rd minute from close range and veteran Fred equalized from the spot near full-time.
Flamengo, Palmeiras and Atlético Mineiro had already secured semifinal spots earlier in the week, marking the first time three Brazilian clubs have reached the final four.
Barcelona’s next match is against heavy favorite Flamengo, which trashed Paraguay’s Olimpia 9-2 on aggregate. Flamengo won their second leg 5-1 at home on Wednesday with striker Gabriel Barbosa scoring twice.
If Flamengo advances to the decider, it will be the second consecutive all-Brazilian final of the Copa Libertadores. Palmeiras beat Santos 1-0 and lifted the trophy at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio last season.
The other finalist will be decided between the defending champions and the rising Atlético Mineiro, home of former Chelsea striker Hulk.
Palmeiras advanced with a 4-1 win on aggregate against local rival Sao Paulo, capped with a 3-0 home win this week.
Atlético reached the semifinals with a 3-0 win over Argentine giant River Plate on Wednesday in Belo Horizonte, with some 17,000 fans in the stands.
Atlético will count on recently signed Spanish striker Diego Costa against Palmeiras.
The Copa Libertadores decider is scheduled for Nov. 27 at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo. Barcelona is the only semifinalist which has never lifted the trophy: Palmeiras and Flamengo have each won the tournament twice and Atlético has one title.
The Copa Sudamericana, the region’s second most prestigious club tournament, could also have an all-Brazilian final.
Brazil’s Athletico Paranaense and Red Bull Bragantino will play against Uruguay’s Peñarol and Paraguay’s Libertad, respectively. The Copa Sudamericana final will take place on Nov. 21 at the same venue as the Copa Libertadores decider.
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