A 5-1 victory In Medellín is enough for Atlético Nacional to turn around a 2-0 disadvantage in the apertura of the Liga Águila, claiming the 16th league title in their history, a record in Colombia.
Atlético Nacional, the reigning Copa Libertadores champions, were warmly received by a bouncing Atanasio Girardot stadium in Medellín and made quick work of their rivals, Deportivo Cali.
Only 16 minutes into the game los verdolagas had already undone the aggregate disadvantage with goals from Macnelly Torres and Mateus Uribe, two key players in Nacional’s title this season. Ex-Nacional Jefferson Duque found the net for Cali but before halftime the aggregate score was even again when this season’s other revelation, Andrés Ibargüen, fired home a screamer from outside the box to put the game back to level.
Nacional continued on top but los azucareros got stuck in the game to try and bring it to a shootout, but it didn’t come as far as Dayro Moreno was tripped in the box with 15 minutes left. He then netted the penalty, to give Nacional the lead. It was the top striker’s 14th goal this season and secured the top goalscorer title for him this season. Three minutes later Rodin Quiñones scored the fifth and final goal, finishing Cali’s title aspirations.
Reinaldo Rueda’s side had dominated the regular season with a points record of 49 points in 20 games, suffering only one defeat, versus city rivals Independiente Medellín when they were already qualified. In the quarterfinals Nacional were cruising against Jaguares de Córdoba, although a slump in concentration almost saw the Colombian football minnows cause an upset, drawing level after a 2 goal deficit, but when Nacional stepped on the gas, they had too much for Jaguares.
The semifinal versus Millonarios was much tighter, with los embajadores mostly on top but failing to score. A 91st minute Dayro Moreno winner, in the return leg, edged out the tie in the Antioqueños favour.
In the first leg of the final in Cali, Nacional looked very much off track for a new title as they were blown away and were lucky to come out with a 2-0 defeat, their brilliant goalkeeper Franco Armani making some great saves to keep Nacional in the tie. And it proved worth its weight in gold yesterday, when the side from Medellín cruised past Cali.
When the next season starts, less than three weeks from now, manager Reinaldo Rueda might not be on the Atlético Nacional bench anymore. The side’s most successful manager in history with six titles including the Copa Libertadores, is linked to several jobs outside of Colombia and hinted in a post match interview that this game is the end of an era.