Independiente Santa Fe pip Huracan on penalties in Sudamericana final
Argentina's recent stranglehold on South American club competitions came to an end on Wednesday night. After two goalless draws, Huracan were beaten on penalties in the final of the Copa Sudamericana by Independiente Santa Fe of Colombia.
There were wild celebrations in Bogota's El Campin stadium; this is Santa Fe's first continental title -- as it would have been, too, for Huracan had they prevailed. For contrasting reasons, then, both sets of supporters will remember this final.
It is highly unlikely, however, to stick in the memory of anyone else. Both legs, last week in Buenos Aires and now in Bogota, were dismally undistinguished affairs.
Indeed, there is an easy explanation for the way that Huracan performed so poorly in the shootout, missing three of their four kicks while Santa Fe scored with their three. The visiting players were presumably disorientated by finding themselves in the opposing penalty area -- it had hardly happened during the 90 minutes plus extra time.
Huracan's best chance of success was always to bring their dangerous centre-forward, Ramon 'Wanchope' Avila into the action. He, though, was left hopelessly isolated. Cristian Espinoza, nominally the other striker, devoted his attentions to blocking the forward runs of Leyvin Balanta, the Colombian's powerful left-back.
Federico Vismaya, the team's experienced central midfielder, shielded the defence well and tried to organise some attacking moves. But the team were incapable of supporting Abila, who struggled to make any impression against Yerry Mina, Santa Fe's big, uncomplicated and promising centre-back.
Shortly before the end of extra time Abila's frustration boiled over, he punched Mina and was sent off.
In theory, Santa Fe had at least another four minutes to press home an advantage against 10 men. But the referee blew his whistle a few seconds early. He could hardly be blamed for deciding that he had seen enough, because it was very hard to see where a Santa Fe breakthrough was coming from.
The goals have dried up for the Colombians, and it is not hard to see why. They failed to score in their last three Sudamericana games -- in part because talented support striker Luis Quinones was fired after yet another act of off the field indiscipline.
The team's captain and main creative force, Argentine playmaker Omar Perez, was never the most dynamic of players. He is now at the veteran stage and has been battling for fitness after a spell out through injury. He was only introduced some 25 minutes into the second half, and made little impression. Without Quinones, and with Perez on the bench or short of fitness, there is an alarming lack of attacking ideas from Santa Fe.
From the earliest stages, unless there was a glaring error or an unexpected flash of inspiration, a second goalless draw always looked likely, and so it proved -- until, unlike Huracan, Santa Fe were unerring from the penalty spot, and celebrated a title that on the balance of the two games they just about deserved.
Tim Vickery covers South American football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Vickery.