Remembering Peñarol, the first Libertadores Champion

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the first Libertadores champion as Peñarol lifted the title on this day in 1960.

The Libertadores story starts in 1960, when everything happened for a first time. The first Libertadores match, the first goal, the first champion, and in each and every one of those important moments, Peñarol play a part. 60 years ago today, June 19th 1960, Peñarol lifted the first first Libertadores title following a 1-1 draw with Olimpia in Asunción. 

El 19 de abril de aquel año Peñarol recibió en el Estadio Centenario a Jorge Wilstermann en un partido inolvidable. La fecha fue elegida estratégicamente para generar una mayor asistencia, el feriado que conmemora el Desembarco de los 33 Orientales era una gran oportunidad. La amenaza de lluvia no importó, las nubes tampoco y el fútbol primó. Ese día más de 35 mil personas asistieron a ver el primer partido de la competencia más importante de América. No sólo pasaron a formar parte de la historia sino que además se deleitaron con una goleada.

Peñarol opened the tournament on April 19th at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo with a 7-1 win against Jorge Wilstermann. Alberto Spencer, who himself sees his name littered across the Libertadores history books scored four times, staking out an early lead as the Libertadores' all-time leading scorer, a mark he still holds today with 54. 

While Peñarol opened the tournament with ease, their path to the first Libertadores title wasn't without difficulty. 

In the semifinals, Peñarol encountered a difficult test with San Lorenzo of Argentina. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Montevideo, the two sides drew again, this time without goals, in the return leg. With the away goals rule decades away from being adopted, the two sides would meet for a decisive third match. Alberto Spencer scored twice for Peñarol as the Uruguayans defeated San Lorenzo 2-1 in the tie-breaker to advance to the Final. 

"Some of those first finals were hard-fought. Each side was fighting for the pride of each country... As the years went on, everybody wanted that trophy. Once television arrived, the competition ceased to be for just the thousands in the stadium and were instead for everyone" is how Luis Cubilla remembers the opening years of the Libertadores. 

Peñarol's first final came against Olimpia. Alberto Spencer found the back of the net for the Uruguayans in a 1-0 first leg victory in Montevideo. 

The second leg, played in Asunción, was met with great expectation. Peñarol started better, but Olimpia did well to take Spencer out of the match, limiting Peñarol's attacking abilities. With 28 minutes played, Hipólito Recalde scored to put the Paraguayans 1-0 up, stoking the fire of belief for the hosts. 

In the second half, Peñarol manager Roberto Scarone took Spencer off, reasoning that he had struggled against such tight defensive pressure. As the minutes ticked by and the scored stayed 1-0, the sides grew closer and closer to a decisive tie-breaking match. But with 88 minutes played, Luis Cubilla struck, equalizing on the day and securing Peñarol's spot at the top of the podium in the first Libertadores with a 1-1 draw.

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