Barcelona 0-2 Flamengo (0-4 agg): Bruno Henrique brace sets up Libertadores final with holders Palmeiras

By Sports Desk September 29, 2021

Flamengo will face Copa Libertadores champions Palmeiras in an all-Brazilian final after Bruno Henrique continued his red-hot form in Wednesday's 2-0 victory at Barcelona.

After scoring a brace in the opening leg, Flamengo star Bruno Henrique scored another two goals to set up a comprehensive 4-0 aggregate triumph over the Ecuadorian side.

Flamengo are unbeaten in their last 17 matches in the Libertadores (W12 D5) – the joint-longest undefeated streak of any team in the history of the tournament, alongside Sporting Cristal from 1962 to 1969 (W8 D9).

Two-time South American champions Flamengo – who last prevailed in 2019 – and holders Palmeiras will meet in the Libertadores showpiece on neutral ground in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo on November 27.

Bruno Henrique broke the deadlock in the 18th minute away to Barcelona in Guayaquil – the forward breaking the offside trap before rounding the goalkeeper and finishing into an empty net.

Having provided the assist in the first half, Everton Ribeiro was the provider again for Bruno Henrique five minutes into the second period.

Starting from the goalkeeper, Flamengo navigated Barcelona's high press, keeping the ball before a swift move resulted in Bruno Henrique completing a stunning team move.

Bruno Henrique (16) and team-mate Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa (21) have together scored more than half of Flamengo's goals in the last three editions of the Libertadores (37 of 73).

Related items

  • 'Pedri will make the difference 100 per cent' – Barcelona's Golden Boy tipped as World Cup star for Spain 'Pedri will make the difference 100 per cent' – Barcelona's Golden Boy tipped as World Cup star for Spain

    Pedri has been hailed as "the Iniesta, the Xavi" of the Spain team that will go after World Cup glory in Qatar.

    The praise came from former Liverpool and Newcastle United left-back Jose Enrique, a player who was crowded out of the Spain squad by the country's last golden generation.

    Jose Enrique's peak playing years coincided with Spain's most dominant period in international football, and although he does not consider Luis Enrique's squad quite at that same level, the likes of Barcelona youngster Pedri make him optimistic for the World Cup.

    Spain won Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Euro 2012 in a sensational period of dominance. They have not won a major tournament since, but a burgeoning group of young talent is emerging once again, with 19-year-old midfielder Pedri among the most exciting talents in the world game.

    "To me, the player that has more projection in terms of image on that team is Pedri, he won't be out of the team," said Jose Enrique.

    "You also have Ferran Torres doing well for Barcelona and Pau [Torres], the central defender of Villarreal; I think he will be key for the team as well."

    Speaking to Stats Perform, Jose Enrique said Spain's final squad for the finals would be "difficult to predict" due to head coach Luis Enrique often filtering players in and out of his squad.

    "But to choose one who will make the difference 100 per cent, and that already did in the past, it is Pedri," Jose Enrique said.

    "For me, he is the star of the national team, the Iniesta, the Xavi. Back in that day it was different because there were many and that is why Spain won everything. But if you mention Spain now, the first player that comes to my mind is Pedri."

    Pedri endured an injury-disrupted 2021-22 season with Barcelona, scoring five goals and having one assist in 22 games across all competitions. Only five Barcelona players created more chances than the 31 he carved out.

    In the previous season, he played a team-high 52 matches, going on to win Tuttosport's prized Golden Boy award as Europe's top young talent. He will be expected to continue to grow into his responsible role in coach Xavi's Barcelona team in the new season.

    Barcelona greats Xavi and Iniesta were at the heart of Spain's indomitable midfield for their three successive big tournament triumphs.

    Jose Enrique was starring in the Premier League at the time but got no further than the Spain Under-21 team, such was the strength throughout the national squad.

    He says the current group of players and the pool that brought glory to Spain during a dazzling four-year period cannot be compared, but stressed that does not mean the new breed cannot be successful.

    A run to the Euro 2020 semi-finals was a step in the right direction for Spain, after a run of disappointing big-stage performances, fuelling Jose Enrique's belief they will be a threat when Qatar hosts in November and December.

    Spain must navigate a challenging group that will see them face Germany, Japan and Costa Rica.

    "Spain will always be one of the favourites because I believe that Spain always is," Jose Enrique said. "But to win a World Cup isn't easy and Spain did it: Euro-World Cup-Euro when they had a brutal selection of players, and now it is completely different.

    "It has a magnificent coach and a squad that changes depending on the players' performances and I love this about Luis Enrique, but it is true that we cannot compare.

    "We now have a young squad with few veterans, and they could win the World Cup because anything can happen in football. England had a very young squad and made it to the [2018 World Cup] semi-finals.

    "Youngsters have more support than before and Spain can be a surprise because Luis Enrique knows very well how to play. He has young players but full of desire and hunger. The most important thing for me is to start well. If they do, they are capable to win against any team, and why not Germany."

  • Barcelona boosted by €267m investment after selling 10 per cent of TV rights Barcelona boosted by €267m investment after selling 10 per cent of TV rights

    Barcelona have given themselves a major financial boost that should see their salary cap increase significantly after selling 10 per cent of their LaLiga TV rights for the next 25 years to an investment firm.

    Last week, club president Joan Laporta promised to activate the "levers" that would ease Barcelona's financial concerns, and Thursday's announcement is the first such step.

    The deal sees Barcelona generate capital gains totalling €267million, with Sixth Street Partners making an initial investment of €207.5million.

    The investment group will subsequently receive 10 per cent of Barca's domestic TV rights revenue until 2047.

    Barca's need for a financial injection was urgent due to their financial year ending on June 30 – their accounts at the end of Thursday would have impacted the salary cap for the upcoming season.

    Last year, Barca's financial woes saw their salary cap slashed by €280m to just €97m for the 2021-22 campaign – to put that into context, six clubs had larger wage limits. Real Madrid were top of the pile with a cap of €739m.

    That was ultimately the reason they could not sign Lionel Messi to a new contract, but the capital injection on Thursday will allow Barca to end this financial year with a profit, thus ensuring a salary cap increase that should be significant.

    The club are also expected to sell almost 50 per cent of the Barca Licensing and Merchandising (BLM) part of the business, but that is now less urgent.

    Speaking after the TV rights deal was announced, Laporta said: "We are activating economic levers and executing on our patient, sustainable, and efficient strategy to strengthen the club's financial footing.

    "Sixth Street is a proven supporter of football, an experienced investor across global sports and media, and a partner that will contribute significant knowledge and resources while allowing us to independently manage our operations."

    Barca are still yet to confirm the arrivals on free transfers of Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie, who have been strongly tipped to join.

    The club are also keen on signing Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, while Manchester City's Bernardo Silva and Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde are reportedly key targets.

    Thursday's news should allow the club greater room for manoeuvre in the transfer market.

  • Tour de France: Can anyone challenge imperious Pogacar? Tour de France: Can anyone challenge imperious Pogacar?

    "I'm just a kid from Slovenia, watching television all day and then riding afterwards," said Tadej Pogacar, after winning the 2020 Tour de France.

    Then just 21, he required a 57-second swing to overtake his compatriot Primoz Roglic on the final time trial.

    He went on to win the grandest of the Grand Tours by 59 seconds, writing his name forever into cycling history as he won Le Tour on his debut.

    There was less drama in 2021, as Pogacar easily retained the three jerseys he won in 2020 (the yellow for the general classification, polka dot for the mountains and white for the best young rider).

    While Olympic glory went to Roglic, Pogacar is out to match the great Eddy Merckx in the record books as he returns to Grand Tour action after skipping the Giro d'Italia.

    The race starts in Copenhagen on Friday, with the opening three stages winding their way through Denmark – the 10th nation other than France to host the Grand Depart.

    Can anyone hope to stop Pogacar in the 109th edition of Le Tour, or is there just no matching the kid from Slovenia?

    Pogacar has Merckx in his sights

    Only Merckx has managed to win the Tour de France on each of his first three appearances in the race (the Belgian went on to win his first five in a row, remarkably), but a place in history is there for the taking for Pogacar.

    He is already the youngest rider to win multiple yellow jerseys, at the age of 22 years and 301 days at the culmination of the 2021 Tour, while he has led the young rider classification for the last 30 stages in total, since stage 13 in 2020, which is the longest run since the white jersey was first awarded in 1975.

    Pogacar is also aiming to become the first rider to win the king of the mountains jersey in three successive editions of the Tour de France since popular French rider Richard Virenque between 1994 and 1997.

    "The Tour de France is the jewel in the crown. It's the one that the road cyclists do all want to win," Chris Hoy, one of the United Kingdom's greatest Olympians, told Stats Perform.

    "As such, it's quite hard to predict. But Pogacar is one of these young phenomenal athletes who have shown such maturity, despite their years."

    Roglic out for revenge

    Roglic won the Criterium du Dauphine earlier in June, and looks well placed to push for what would be his fourth Grand Tour success, albeit his first outside of Spain.

    The chance was cruelly snatched away in 2020, while Roglic was forced to abandon ahead of stage nine last year following a crash six stages prior.

    Roglic is aiming to become the oldest rider to win the Tour de France since Cadel Evans in 2011 (34 years and 162 days).

    He will be 32 years old and 268 days on the last day of this year's race, but is the prime contender from a strong Jumbo-Visma team.

    Their line-up includes six-time Tour de France stage winner Wout van Aert, Jonas Vingegaard, who finished second overall in 2021, and Sepp Kuss, an exceptional climber who last year became the first American to win a stage at the Tour de France since Tyler Farrar in 2011, while Steven Kruijswijk is one of three riders in the squad to have finished on the GC podium before.

    Van Aert is the pick of the supporting cast, with his six stage wins between 2019 and 2021 the joint-highest in that period alongside Pogacar.

    Indeed, the Belgian won the final two stages last year and could become the first rider to win three successive individual stages (not including time trials) at Le Tour since Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi in 2003.

    No Bernal, but INEOS looking strong

    Egan Bernal has not yet fully recovered from a serious crash he suffered earlier this year, meaning INEOS Grenadiers are without one of the best in the business.

    Yet their team is still one to be reckoned with. Captain Geraint Thomas is one of just three riders in the provisional start list to have won Le Tour (along with Pogacar and Chris Froome), with the Welshman heading to France on the back of his sole victory of 2022 so far, in the Tour de Suisse.

    Only Merckx (in 1974) and Bernal (2019) have won both the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France in the same season, and while a Thomas push for GC glory looks unlikely, INEOS have real depth.

    Tom Pidcock is one of the brightest prospects in cycling, having triumphed in the Tokyo Olympic Games mountain biking and the World Championships (cyclo-cross).

    He is riding alongside Adam Yates, the winner of the white jersey in 2016, and time trial world champion Filippo Ganna.

    Stage 20 between Lacapelle-Marival and Rocamadour (40.7km) will be the longest individual time trial in the Tour de France since 2014, and Ganna, a six-time stage winner at the Giro d'Italia, will be looking to come to the fore there.

    Cavendish denied a shot at history

    Despite Pogacar's dominance, Mark Cavendish provided the most remarkable story at the 2021 Tour de France. His comeback was one for the ages.

    Cavendish had not featured at the Tour de France in 2016, but last year he won four stages to match the overall record of Merckx (34 stage victories) that had stood since 1975.

    The Manxman was unable to surpass it on the Champs-Elysees, however, and his chance of becoming the outright record holder may well have gone, after Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl went with Fabio Jakobsen (who has 10 sprint wins this season) as their sprinter.

    Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team riders have led the points classification in the Tour de France in each of the last 33 stages of the race, with three of their riders winning the green jersey in that time. Julian Alaphilippe is one of them, but like Cavendish he has missed out.

    France out of luck?

    Alaphilippe has won six of the last nine stages won by a French rider in the Tour de France, and would have been aiming to become the first home rider to win a stage at five consecutive editions since Bernard Hinault (1978-1982).

    As it is, Alaphilippe will have to watch on, and with that France's slim hopes of a home success seem to have dwindled further still.

    Romain Bardet has achieved five top-10 finishes in the GC standings. That is the most for a French rider since Virenque (six between 1994 and 2000), yet Bardet has finished only two of his last four Grand Tours and it would be a shock if the Team DSM man challenged.

    Pierre Rolland will participate in his 13th Tour de France, the joint-highest tally among all riders on the provisional start list, alongside Imanol Erviti, while Thibaut Pinot will make his first Grand Tour start since the 2020 Vuelta a Espana, when he abandoned after two stages. This will be his ninth appearance in La Grande Boucle, but he has finished only four times.

    The last time a Frenchman did not win a stage was in 1999 – since then, 59 stages have been won by French riders – but you might not bet against that run ending this year.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.