Atlético Tucumán confirmed the next chapter in their historic season last night with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Colombia’s Junior FC, ensuring qualification for the Copa Libertadores for the first time in their history.

In a packed out Estadio Monumental Jose Fierro, El Decano again showed the kind of spirit that has propelled them along their impressive journey so far. Three first-half strikes were enough to avenge their 1-0 away defeat in Barranquilla last week. Winger Rodrigo Aliendro opened the scoring 19 minutes into the game; Cristian Menéndez added on 24′, before striker Fernando Zampedri wrapped things up four minutes later.

Junior’s Sebastián Hernández provided a late scare, bringing the score to 3-2 on aggregate, but Pablo Lavallén’s side held to see the tie out.

Speaking after the game, the young coach said “I feel proud to head this group of guys and players with such an incredible hunger. It’s not easy to take hold of these games, but we went out on the front foot and ended up with a worthy win.”

Lavallén remains level-headed, however, saying “Although playing in the Copa Libertadores is a gift for us and we must enjoy it, we have to stay focused on the main goal, which is to keep ourselves in the first division.”

Meanwhile, the 30,000 inside the stadium had seemingly taken no notice of news that Tucumán will receive a fine of $150,000 as punishment for their late arrival in Ecuador in the previous round, nor the fact that ticket prices were as high as AR $2500 for standard seating. From the stadium, the celebrations continued long into the night at Plaza de Independencia – the same square where fans had cheered the team’s promotion to the top flight only two seasons ago.

Fans celebrated in the city's main square long after the final whistle
Fans celebrated in the city’s main square long after the final whistle

Club authority Ángel Zamoratte reflected a similar feeling in his assessment of the result, describing it as “not only for us, but for the whole of Tucumán… for all of Northwestern Argentina. This is a source of global pride.”

Tucumán, who sit in 13th position in the league, will play in Group 5 alongside Brazilian giants Palmeiras, Uruguay’s Peñarol and Jorge Wilstermann of Bolivia. Their first fixture will be played on March 8, against Palmeiras.