River Plate and Boca Juniors finally meet in the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final on Sunday, with one of football’s grandest old rivalries set to be played out at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Real Madrid’s famous stadium is steeped in a history of huge occasions but it will feel like a surreal setting, salvaging this final to end all finals that almost ended itself.
The planned fixture on November 24, following the initial 2-2 draw at La Bombonera, was thrown into chaos when River fans en route to El Monumental hurled objects at the Boca team bus.
Images of players injured by broken glass and affected by police deployment of tear gas went around the world and, after kick-off was twice put back, the match was postponed. A hastily rescheduled meeting the following day was also shelved.
CONMEBOL were not short of suitors after River’s home ground was deemed unsuitable to host the conclusion of an enthralling spectacle turned sour. Doha, Miami, Asuncion and Genoa were all touted before Madrid won the nod.
Boca Juniors are on their way to Madrid for the rearranged Copa Libertadores final second leg.
Their fans gave them quite the send-off in Buenos Aires! #Boca #CopaLibertadores pic.twitter.com/MIVoQQnKJP
— Omnisport (@OmnisportNews) December 5, 2018
That decision was protested by both Boca and River but, with each team now undergoing their final preparations in the Spanish capital, we can assume – to a reasonable degree of certainty – that the saga is about to end.
But how did we get here? Allow Omnisport to recap a weekend of confusion and shame for a city besotted with football.
BOCA BUS ATTACKED (Saturday, November 24. 15:00 local time)
Setting in motion a scarcely believable sequence of events, the Boca Juniors team bus was attacked by River Plate supporters as it made its way towards El Monumental.
Projectiles from the packed Avenida Monroe showered the vehicle, with some windows smashed, and Boca players arrived at the stadium seemingly affected by the use of tear gas.
GAME DELAYED BY AN HOUR (Saturday, 16:45)
Around 20 minutes before the scheduled kick-off time, CONMEBOL announced that the start had been officially moved back an hour to 18:00 due to the attack. This news was confirmed inside the stadium shortly afterwards.
Debido a los hechos sucedidos con el bus del Club Boca Juniors, el partido ha sido postergado hasta las 18:00 horas.
— CONMEBOL.com (@CONMEBOL) November 24, 2018
SECOND DELAY, CONMEBOL REPORTS ‘SUPERFICIAL’ INJURIES (Saturday, 17:45)
As Boca captain Pablo Perez and his team-mate Gonzalo Lamardo were checked out at hospital for potential eye injuries caused by shattered glass, CONMEBOL pressed on for the final to still go ahead. It offered a second revised time of 19:15, while a medical report authorised by the federation described injuries suffered by Boca players as “superficial”.
TEVEZ: WE CANNOT PLAY (Saturday, 18:30)
Carlos Tevez came forward to address the media, speaking to Fox Sports Argentina after CONMEBOL had claimed there was no reason for the match to be suspended.
“We cannot play. They are forcing us to play the match. I understand [CONMEBOL] are under a lot of pressure,” he said. “My headache is just now getting better. We have three team-mates that are in no condition to play.”
PEREZ INCLUDED IN BOCA TEAM (Saturday, 19:12)
Although neither side emerged to warm up in time for the 19:15 kick-off, a team announcement for Boca began to circulate. Remarkably, Perez was included in the starting line-up.
MATCH SUSPENDED (Saturday, 19:22)
Within moments of the Boca XI being named, it was belatedly agreed that the match would be postponed until Sunday. A new kick-off time of 17:00 was announced.
BOCA CALL FOR SECOND SUSPENSION (Sunday, November 25. 12:45)
Boca released a statement over four hours before kick-off on Sunday, calling for CONMEBOL to suspend the match and punish River. The visitors insisted the “conditions of equality” required for the contest to take place had not been met.
Comunicado de prensa | El Club Atlético Boca Juniors realizó este domingo una presentación formal ante la Conmebol para solicitar que la final de la Copa Libertadores se juegue en condiciones de igualdad, tal como se firmó ayer en el Estadio Monumental. https://t.co/Ym4UTeFlxy pic.twitter.com/s2KGK86zPi
— Boca Jrs. Oficial (@BocaJrsOficial) November 25, 2018
“After the acts of violence suffered in the vicinity of the stadium, having noted the magnitude and seriousness of them and the consequences they have generated in the establishment, Boca considers that these conditions are not met and requests the suspension of the match, as well as the application of the corresponding sanctions provided for in article 18, so that CONMEBOL acts accordingly,” the statement read.
RIVER OPEN EL MONUMENTAL GATES (Sunday, 13:00)
Despite Boca’s complaints, River announced their plans to open the gates to allow supporters to enter the stadium for the second time in two days.
FANS ENTER STADIUM AGAIN (Sunday, 13:30)
Half an hour later than advertised, River fans were once again taking their places at El Monumental.
SECOND SUSPENSION CONFIRMED (Sunday, 14:24)
Bowing to Boca’s wishes, CONMEBOL finally announced the game was off and would not be played this weekend. The decision was made in order to “preserve sporting equality”.
CONMEBOL met with both clubs at its headquarters headquarters in Asuncion, Paraguay the following week to seek a resolution. In a clumsy irony not lost on many, the Copa Libertadores was heading to Spain.
La CONMEBOL anunció que la final de la Copa Libertadores fue postergada.
— River Plate (@CARPoficial) November 25, 2018
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