Chapecoense savor win on international return

Maracaibo (Venezuela) (AFP) – Brazilian football team Chapecoense on Wednesday promised more surprises after an emotional 2-1 victory in their first international match since a plane crash wiped out their squad.

The side’s new team, rebuilt with 22 new signings since last November’s crash, surprised the crowds with their quality in beating Zulia FC of Venezuela in the Copa Libertadores on Tuesday night.

The scorer of the winning goal, midfielder Luiz Antonio, 25, promised Wednesday there was more to come after their winning start to their campaign in the group stage of Latin America’s top club competition.

“I have a dream of helping Chapecoense to go far, and we will get there bit by bit,” the ex-Flamengo player told reporters. “We are going to surprise a lot of people.”

The side had to rebuild virtually from scratch after the crash killed 19 of their players and staff in November, turning a fairytale rise into a nightmare.

The disaster destroyed a team that had surged in seven years from Brazil’s fourth division to the final of the Copa Sudamericana regional tournament. 

Tuesday night’s away match in the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo was an emotional release for the team scarcely three months after they buried their teammates.

“The pressure was great, but we managed an important win,” said Antonio.

Winger Reinaldo, 27, scored Chapecoense’s first goal in front of a crowd of 36,000 in Maracaibo’s Pachencho Romero stadium.

The side’s new coach Vagner Mancini said ahead of the match that winning it would be the “best tribute” possible to those affected by the accident.

“The distressed city of Chapeco deserved a victory,” he told a news conference after the match.

“It is not just the victory, which gives us three points, but the way we won it,” he said. “We won it by playing well.”

The disaster cut short Chapecoense’s dream as they flew to Colombia on November 28 to play against Atletico Nacional.

The crash in the Colombian mountains killed 71 people, including 19 of the team’s players and numerous staff.

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