News Latin America Pereira wins the Colombian league for the first time after beating Medellin...

Pereira wins the Colombian league for the first time after beating Medellin on penalties

Leonardo Castro, from Pereira, shoots in front of Medellin’s goalkeeper Andres Mosquera during the Colombian soccer final, at the Hernan Ramirez Villegas stadium in Pereira.Mauricio Duenas Castaneda (EFE)

Deportivo Pereira capped off an improbable feat in a penalty shootout to earn a place on the list of Colombian soccer champions. With goals from Leonardo Castro and key saves from Harlen ‘Chipi Chipi’ Castillo, the team matecana lifted its first first category title in its 78-year history at its stadium, after ninety minutes without annotations. Their rival, Deportivo Independiente Medellin, withdrawn for most of the final game, failed to gain an advantage in their field and suffered at home in a stadium turned upside down in support of the red and yellow team. The small club from the capital of Risaralda had already won a valuable away draw against mighty of the mountain.

In the decisive round of collections from the penalty spot, Chipi Chipi Castillo saved the shots of defender Andres Cadavid and Argentine midfielder Adrian Arregui, while Leo Castro, the league’s golden loot, ensured his collection at the beginning of the series. Midfielder Leider Berrio, 24, made the final charge for Pereira to win 4-3 and thus become the fifteenth Colombian soccer team to reach the star.

After having equalized 1-1 in the first leg, in Pereira, a city of less than half a million inhabitants, they hoped to be crowned in front of their people, with the push of the public, as in the end it happened. Coach Alejandro Restrepo kept the pulse of a humble team, with a modest payroll, which in the semifinal homer gave a surprise by leaving the puffed-up teams from Bogota on the road. The team became reliable, despite having finished the regular tournament only in fifth place, turned the Hernan Ramirez Villegas stadium into a fortress in the semifinal phase – Millonarios, Santa Fe and Junior fell there by a landslide – and found Leonardo Castro, who played from 2016 to 2021 in the DIM itself, the tournament scorer.

From beginning to end of the final game, Pereira was supported by a fan thirsty for titles that turned Hernan Ramirez Villegas into an insurmountable wall for his rivals in the final stages. Restrepo thus goes from villain to hero of the city, because last year, when he directed Atletico Nacional de Medellin, he defeated Pereira himself in the final of the Colombia Cup. The coach recalled that, at the beginning of the tournament, in the press conferences they asked him more about the threat of relegation than about the title aspirations. The star seemed like a chimera, as Pereira barely returned to the top flight in 2020 after a seven-year stint in the second division.

In the first leg, DIM took the lead with a goal from striker Diber Cambindo, but Leonardo Castro, who scored 15 goals in the semester, equalized the match and goalkeeper Castillo had already saved a penalty taken by Andres Cadavid. Medellin, despite the defeat, has already guaranteed its ticket to the Copa Libertadores under the command of David Gonzalez, the former goalkeeper who was just making his debut this semester as a coach.

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