On Saturday October 31, 1987, occurred one of the most dramatic matches in the legendary history of the Copa Libertadores. America de Cali was for the third consecutive year in the finals, feeling that this was their chance. Their rival would be Peñarol. And so, true to its history, when just a few seconds remained until the Colombian club would be champion, a memorable goal by Diego Aguirre would put Peñarol again on top of the continent.
Peñarol was coached by a young Oscar Tabarez, a coach who knew how to fuse the wisdom of the more experienced with the strength of the youth. The campaign started on May 6 with a tight 3-2 win over Progreso, the humble club coached by Walter Roque. Then it was time to travel to Peru and return undefeated after defeating Alianza Lima 1-0 and getting a 1-1 draw against Colegio San Agustín. The classification to the next phase was sealed on June 2 when the club defeated Alianza Lima in the Centenario 2-0 on goals by Gustavo Matosas and Jose Herrera.
In the semifinal they would have to face Independiente and River Plate the defending champion. Peñarol came out firing in their debut managing a 3-0 home win over Independiente. Two weeks later, also in Montevideo, they drew River 0-0.
In the rematches the "red" would outperform Nunez's team 2-1, putting the Uruguayan cast on top with three points leaving River with two. Peñarol now faced Independiente with a spot in the finals on the line. Independiente was the home side. Peñarol would go on to win 4-2 with 2 goals from Jorge Cabrera, one from Diego Aguirre and one from Eduardo Da Silva, which was the first defeat for Independiente in the Copa Libertadores against a non-Argentine rival. Again, Peñarol was a finalist.
The first decisive encounter took place in Cali and America pressed from the opening whistle and just 8 minutes in took the lead with a perfect free kick by Juan Manuel Battaglia. At 27 minutes Roberto Cabañas increased the lead with a powerful kick from outside the box. The match ended 2-0. The rematch was on October 28 and if Peñarol won it would go to a third match. Roberto Cabañas opened the scoring for the Colombians in the 9th minute. Diego Aguirre would tie up the game with a header off a corner in the 68th minute.
With the clock winding down it would be Jorge Villar, a young man who Tabarez sent on in place of Cabrera that would score the winner in the 87th minute off a free kick that he took coolly and calmly placing his shot in the upper right corner of Julio Falcioni. Madness in the stadium. Peñarol won 2-1 and everything would be defined in the third game.
The venue for the deciding game was the Nacional Stadium in Santiago, Chile, held just three days later on a sunny spring afternoon. The meeting was rough with moments of foul play, like the aggression between Jose Herrera and Roberto Cabañas which resulted in the expulsion of both by referee Hernán Silva. It was 0-0 after the 90 minutes and into overtime. América would be champion if no goals were scored.
Then with less than 20 seconds left until the final whistle...defender Valencia kicked out a ball that Viera headed to the feet of Villar who passed to Diego Aguirre who entered the box like a streak of lightening and put the ball past a stretched out Falcioni with his left foot. The clock read 120 minutes. Peñarol made the impossible possible.
Eduardo Pereira, who was the goalkeeper of that team, made a statement that fit perfectly in the story: "Peñarol teaches you that until the referee blows the final whistle, nothing is lost." And so it was: Peñarol was champion again.
Teams for the final:
Peñarol: Eduardo Pereira; José Herrera, Marcelo Rotti, Obdulio Trasante, Alfonso Domínguez; Eduardo Da Silva, José Perdomo (Jorge Goncalves), Ricardo Viera; Daniel Vidal (Jorge Villar), Diego Aguirre, Jorge Cabrera. Coach: Oscar Tabárez.
América: Julio Falcioni; Hugo Valencia, Víctor Espinoza, Álvaro Aponte, Jairo Ampudia; Sergio Santín, Víctor Luna, Roberto Cabañas; Willington Ortíz, Ricardo Gareca (Enrique Esterilla), Juan Manuel Battaglia. Coach: Gabriel Ochoa Uribe
Eduardo Bolaños - CONMEBOL.com