Abel inspired by Mourinho at Old Trafford as Palmeiras return to Copa Libertadores final

By Sports Desk September 29, 2021

Palmeiras coach Abel Ferreira took inspiration from Jose Mourinho's early-career Champions League success as he masterminded an away-goals win against Atletico Mineiro in the Copa Libertadores semi-finals.

The reigning South American champions returned to the Libertadores final with a 1-1 draw at Atletico on Tuesday, having played out a goalless first leg at home.

Eduardo Vargas' header had put the home side in front, but Dudu equalised 22 minutes from time to crucially extend Palmeiras' record-breaking unbeaten away run in the competition to 15 matches.

Abel never doubted that leveller was coming, revealing Palmeiras had planned simply to score once in order to advance.

The coach referred to Mourinho's 1-1 draw at Manchester United with Porto in 2004, in which the visitors netted in the 90th minute through Costinha to knock Alex Ferguson's men out 3-2 on aggregate. Porto went on to win the Champions League.

"I'm Portuguese with great pride, I'm European with great pride," Abel said.

"We have the best coaches in the world, like Mourinho; we have the best referees in the world, like Pedro Proenca; we have in Portugal the president with the most titles in the world [Pinto da Costa]; and we have one of the best players in the world, [Cristiano] Ronaldo.

"When you look at Ronaldo, you see great mental strength, an insatiable work discipline, wanting to win and wanting to do more and better, and that is the Portuguese mentality and the European mentality.

"This I will never abdicate. And that calm and that intelligence inspired me.

"I talked about the game between Manchester United and Porto in which Mourinho in the last second at Old Trafford made it 1-1 and [went through]. It was in this game that I was inspired.

"That's what I told our players: we have to come here to score a goal, and we're going to do it because we have had an impeccable Libertadores.

"What is sometimes lacking here in Brazil is rigour and discipline in work and daily dedication to sacrifice. They know what it means, that to win you pay a price to be in the final, and these players were willing to pay that price to be in the final."

Palmeiras had just 36.7 per cent of the possession but blocked seven of their opponents' 17 shots.

Veteran captain Felipe Melo contributed one of those and led by example as he made nine clearances, three tackles and three interceptions.

Palmeiras' reward was a second consecutive Libertadores final, becoming the fourth club to achieve that feat in the 21st century – after Boca Juniors in both 2000 and 2001 and 2003 and 2004, Sao Paulo in 2005 and 2006 and River Plate in 2018 and 2019.

They will face Flamengo or Barcelona in the showpiece, with their Brazilian rivals 2-0 up after the first leg.

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