Alianza Lima 3 (8) – (6) 3 Universidad San Martín de Porres
Estadio Miguel Grau, Callao
Alianza Lima clinched Peru’s new Copa Inca yesterday after winning a dramatic penalty shoot-out against city rivals San Martín, securing a place in next year’s prestigious Copa Libertadores.
San Martín tore ahead in the first half, Luis Perea scoring a penalty in the 16th minute and Uruguayan Santiago Silva finishing some slinky passing play on the half-hour mark.
After a limp first-half performance, los blanquiazules sparkled to scored twice in the 85th and 91st minute, Koichi Aparicio with a shot from long distance and a Mauro Guevgeozián effort in stoppage time, to prompt added play.
Alianza edged ahead in extra time with a crossbar-rattling header from Mauricio Montes in the 110th minute, to be then snuffed out a minute later by a 30-metre strike from Benjamín Ubierna, resulting in both teams drawn after 120 minutes.
After San Martín’s Carlos Fernández’s shot was saved, Peru’s joint-oldest club converted their fifth penalty to put to bed a match at half time their rivals had in their grasp.
A first-half red card for San Martín’s Luis Perea indeed gave Alianza the advantage and left the hitherto tight santos exposed to a volley of attempts on goal in the second half.
Alianza fans dominated the stadium’s 17,000 seats in their blue and white strips at the neutral ground in Lima’s city port of Callao.
San Martín, a university club in the north of the city, are only ten years old and are still procuring fans.
Despite both playing in their home city, Alianza enjoy strong support, resulting in a hostile atmosphere for San Martín.
Alianza were founded in 1901 and are one of Peru’s “Big Three” teams, along with Lima-based rivals Universitario and Sporting Cristal.
Copa Inca format
The Copa Inca sees the winners of two groups of eight from Peru’s top flight Primera División play in a final.
It’s yet another revision in Peru’s footballing format that has several quirks.
Starting in February, the Copa Inca precedes the two-legged “Torneo Descentralizado”, Peru’s main championship that has both an Open (Apertura) and Close (Clausura) season.
Each leg has 15 home-and-away fixtures and runs from June to December.
The winner of each, according to the greatest number of points, qualifies for the Copa Libertadores along with the Copa Inca champion, putting three teams through to the continent-wide competition.
It sees smaller national sides come up against much feted opponents like Buenos Aires’ Boca Juniors or São Paulo’s Corinthians.
Argentine club Independiente is the continent’s most successful lifting the trophy seven times. Reigning champions are Brazilian side Atlético Mineiro who recorded their first title after defeating Paraguay’s Olimpia.
Winners of the Copa Libertadores progress to the FIFA World Club championship, a knockout tournament of a team from each continent.
Bolsa de minutos
Peru’s leagues are noteworthy in that teams have a quota (bolsa de minutos) of how many minutes certain players can feature.
Alianza Lima have three players – Ponce Junior, Guadalupe Gonzalo, and Ramos Aldair – that cannot play more than 1,000 minutes over the 14 games in the Copa Inca.
This is to encourage the development of younger players, not subject to these restrictions, who fill in for seniors squad members who are tactically rested to not go over quota.
An interesting precedent – take note European leagues.