Brawl mars Gremio, Huachipato game
SAO PAULO (AP)
The Copa Libertadores match between Gremio of Brazil and Huachipato of Chile ended in a huge brawl on Thursday, with coaches fighting each other and players throwing punches and kicks.
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The altercation began after the 1-1 draw in Talcahuano, Chile, which eliminated the hosts from the group stage and allowed Gremio to advance.
The round of 16 is set after the final group matches were played on Thursday, with last year's two finalists Corinthians of Brazil - the defending champion - and Boca Juniors of Argentina facing each other again.
The situation in Chile got out of control after Huachipato team members accused Gremio coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo of provoking them after the final whistle. Coach Jorge Pellicer and several players charged after Luxemburgo, who tried to run away but was not able to make it to the changing room in time.
The former Real Madrid coach turned around and raised his arms to try to defend himself, then slipped and fell to the ground as at least two players went after him. Luxemburgo stayed on the ground, using his feet to avoid being hit, until riot police arrived to move the Chileans away.
Huachipato team members said Luxemburgo told them to ''enjoy their vacation,'' according to local media, but Luxemburgo denied saying anything along those lines or anything to provoke the opponents.
''None of this was necessary,'' Luxemburgo said. ''I was talking to the officiating crew after the match and someone from their team came to me to complain. Then I saw their coach coming after me and I started trying to get away because I didn't want to get involved in anything. I was stepped on and one of their players hit me.''
Huachipato fans also apparently entered the pitch and tried to go after the Gremio players, and television images showed some of the ball boys throwing balls at the Brazilians as they tried to enter the changing room, where the altercation continued. Huachipato players also were seen kicking balls at players and at the riot police, which quickly intervened to try to protect the Brazilians.
The brawl comes just a few weeks after players from Argentine club Arsenal were briefly detained by Brazilian police following an altercation after a match against Atletico Mineiro in Belo Horizonte. The Argentine club had to pay a fine to have the players released.
World Cup veteran Ze Roberto scored for Gremio with a half-bicycle kick in the first half, and Miguel Aceval equalized with a powerful free kick in the 89th, but Huachipato needed the victory to go through.
The Brazilian club will face Santa Fe of Colombia in the round of 16, which will be highlighted by the Corinthians vs. Boca Juniors matchup. Corinthians won the final last year for its first Libertadores title.
Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro will face fellow Brazilian club Sao Paulo, while Velez Sarsfield and Newell's Old Boys are set for an all-Argentine encounter. In other matchups, Tijuana of Mexico plays Palmeiras of Brazil; Real Garcilaso of Peru faces Nacional of Uruguay, Tigre of Argentina is up against Olimpia of Paraguay and Emelec of Ecuador plays Fluminense of Brazil.