Chapecoense qualifies for Copa Libertadores playoffs

Just over a year since the plane crash that killed most of Chapecoense’s players and staff, the Brazilian club’s remarkable recovery continues.

A goal from Tulio de Melo in the fifth minute of stoppage time gave Chapecoense victory against Coritiba with the last kick of the game.

It means the reborn side finished eighth in Brazil’s Serie A to earn a place in the qualifying rounds of next season’s Copa Libertadores — the premier club competition in South American football.

The result came just a few days after a vigil was held at the Arena Conda to mark the one-year anniversary of the plane crash that killed 71 of the 77 people on board, including 19 of the club’s first-team players.

Sunday’s win completed a 10-game unbeaten streak in Serie A for Chapecoense. Having celebrated avoiding relegation with three games of the season remaining, further victories gave the club more reason to celebrate.

A video on the Chapecoense social media accounts showed players dancing and singing in the home changing room, posted with the words “and the scene repeats itself.”

The club was offered immunity from relegation, but president Ivan Tozzo rejected the offer, saying he wanted results on the pitch to dictate his side’s destiny.

But on the final day of the season, with its status in Serie A secure, Chapecoense’s players reached new heights.

De Melo, who returned to his old club this season in the wake of last year’s tragedy, secured the victory after Elicarlos’ first-half goal canceled out Kleber Freitas’ early score for Coritiba.

Chapecoense’s late winner also relegated Coritiba to Serie B as the Brazilian domestic season came to a dramatic close.