Led by midfielder Rafael Carrascal and striker Michael Rangel, América de Cali regained its place among the greats of Colombian soccer. The team led by Brazilian coach Alexandre Guimaraes defeated the impressive Junior de Barranquilla 2-0 this Saturday in the second leg of the grand final, supported by a fan thirsty for titles that turned the Pascual Guerrero stadium into an impregnable cauldron. The popular scarlet team thus achieves the fourteenth league of its record, the first since it returned three years ago to the highest category after a traumatic passage through the second division.
In an intense and entertaining game, with Carrascal as the owner of the midfield strings, América imposed their quick transitions against Junior’s sterile possession of the ball, forced to play far from Neto Volpi’s goal. The Red Devils put a stop to the hegemony of the great Caribbean team, which, thanks to the saves by Sebastián Viera and the goals by Teófilo Gutiérrez, had won the two most recent Colombian soccer finals and was aiming for the three-time championship.
After obtaining a valuable goalless draw in the first leg at the Metropolitano de Barranquilla, América scored the first goal of the series before 20 minutes with a furious header from Rangel that crashed into the crossbar. Picbarra’s ricochet hit Viera’s back before ending up at the bottom of the arc. Although the images showed an own goal by the Uruguayan goalkeeper, the referee Wílmar Roldán scored it on Rangel. The gunner, the great figure of the scarlet team, arrived as a reinforcement precisely from the Junior and thanks to that goal he is crowned the tournament’s top scorer with 14 goals, one above the Argentine German Cano, from Medellín.
América extended the lead half an hour into the game in another quick incursion, when midfielder Carlos Sierra holed a killer pass from winger Edwin Velasco inside the small area. When the first half was not yet exhausted, the ball ended up inside Volpi’s goal, after a spectacular action in which the Brazilian goalkeeper crashed into his defense. However, the play was canceled after the VAR review, which was released in the Colombian league. The scoreboard no longer moved despite the insistence of Junior, who played the last ten minutes with ten men due to the expulsion of Marlon Piedrahita, and the dangerous local counterattacks.
America, which suffered five long years in the second division, is also a historic player on the continent. His first local title in 11 years marks the return in 2020 to the Copa Libertadores, a tournament in which he had outstanding participations that could never crystallize with a championship, as he lost four finals between 1985 and 1996. América, Junior, Tolima and Medellín They will be the Colombian representatives in the Libertadores, while Nacional de Medellín, Cali, Millonarios and Deportivo Pasto will compete in the Suramericana.
Guimaraes, former coach of Costa Rica, is the first Brazilian strategist to obtain a title in Colombian football. Throughout the campaign he built a solid team, with the security of his compatriot Volpi in goal, a midfield in which the trident made up of Carrascal, Sierra and Luis Paz stood out, and an attack in which Rangel shone.