December 3, 2017 / 10:27 PM / in a year

Late goal gives rebuilt Chapecoense a place in Copa Libertadores qualifiers

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A year on from losing most of their squad in a plane crash, Chapecoense earned a place in the qualifying rounds of next year’s Copa Libertadores when they won their final match of the Brazilian league season on Sunday.

Coritiba and Avai were relegated from Brazil’s Serie A on a dramatic final day.

A goal from Tulio de Melo in the fifth minute of injury time gave the rebuilt Chapecoense a 2-1 over Coritiba to lift them into eighth place in the table and send their opponents down.

The win means they will join seventh-placed Vasco da Gama in the qualifying rounds of next year’s Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League.

Chapecoense lost all but three members of their squad in November last year when the plane taking them to play in the Copa Sudamericana final crashed into a hillside in Colombia, killing 71 of the 77 people on board.

Corinthians had already won the title before Sunday, with games to spare, and were trailed by Palmeiras, Santos, Gremio, Cruzeiro and Flamengo, all of whom qualified for the Libertadores.

Flamengo are already in the final of the Copa Sudamericana, the continent’s second most important club competition, and if they win that they will qualify automatically for next year and create one extra space for a Brazilian team, ninth-placed Atletico Mineiro.

Four teams are relegated to Serie B, with Avai, whose failure to get more than a 1-1 draw at Santos was fatal, joining Coritiba, Ponte Preta and Atletico Goianiense.

They will be replaced in the top tier by America-MG, Internacional, Ceara and Parana.

Reporting by Andrew Downie; editing by Clare Fallon

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