Atletico Nacional's triumph wipes away stain of first Copa Libertadores triumph

Twenty-seven years after its first title, Colombia's Atletico Nacional won a second Copa Libertadores championship with a 1-0 win over Ecuador's Independiente del Valle that gave it a 2-1 aggregate victory.

Miguel Borja had the lone goal in the ninth minute of Wednesday's match at Medellin's Atanasio Girardot Stadium to finish as the tournament's leading scorer with five goals.

The title was the third by a Colombian club. The only other Colombian team to win the tournament is Once Caldas, the victor in 2004.

Nacional's victory in 1989 ended after years of frustration for Colombian teams. Deportivo Cali finished second in 1978 and America Cali was runner-up three years in a row in 1986, 1986 and 1987.

Its triumph over Olimpia of Paraguay in a shootout in 1989 came at the height of the golden age of Colombian soccer, or its low point, depending on your point of view.

The team was coached by Francisco Maturana and featured such greats as Rene Higuita in goal, Luis Carlos Perea and the late Andres Escobar and Leonel Alvarez in midfield. That same nucleus with Maturana also on the bench would lead Colombia to the 1990 and 1994 World Cups.

But the great Colombian teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s were overshadowed by the influence of drug money, America Cali, the club of the Cali cartel, and Nacional, the team of the Medellin cartel and the notorious Pablo Escobar.

The same year Nacional won the Libertadores Cup referee Alvaro Ortega was gunned down after a game between America and Independiente, the other Medellin team.

It was assumed Escobar ordered the hit because Ortega had called off a goal for his other team, Independiente. Two men confronted Ortega and one of his linesmen after the game, ordered the linesman to step aside, pulled out Uzis and fired 18 bullets into Ortega.

Escobar used Atletico Nacional to launder his narco-dollars, and they allowed him to build the greatest Colombian team ever assembled.

Escobar was finally killed on Dec. 2, 1993, seven months before Andres Escobar was murdered following the 1994 World Cup.
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