Bore draw

Belluschi tries to keep the ball, whilst Gandolfi and Casteglione ‘throw some shapes’

Not an awful lot went on in El Viaducto on Thursday night, as Arsenal hosted River in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana semi-final. Both sides lacked something, and although the hosts showed more intent, with River happy to play on the counter, they ended the game happy enough with the draw after Fernando Belluschi missed a cracking chance to bag an away goal for his side. Back to Núñez, then…

The pressure was all on River before the match, as indeed it should have been given their past record in this competition, and given that Arsenal are appearing for the first time in their history in a continental semi-final. And River did start more promisingly, dominating the early play with Ariel Ortega finding the space Daniel Passarella wanted him to seek and pulling the strings for his front men, Radamel Falcao García and Marco Ruben. Both Ruben and Falcao saw chances go begging after being put through by Ortega early on, and Belluschi also joined them.

Soon, however, Arsenal were closing down River’s front pair and forcing the match more for themselves. José Calderón forced a save from Juan Pablo Carrizo with a long-range shot, while Israel Damonte, who as reported here on Wednesday night was in to replace Andrés San Martín, was everywhere, winning and distributing the ball and causing some real headaches for the visitors. For all the bluster, though, few real chances were created by either side before the break.

The second half saw one change early on as Passarella tried to give River back the impetus. Ruben came off at half time for Mauro Rosales, and suddenly River looked more dangerous up front. Well I never. Shortly after, however, a niggling injury to Cristian Nasuti meant the centre-back had to come off for midfielder René Lima. The subsequent reshuffling left River with a rather more combative and rather less creative central midfield than they’d been planning for, and Arsenal found it difficult to break down. Tension increased, but decent football was at a bit of a premium as the second half wore on.

Late on there were chances at both ends – Cristian Díaz sent in a cross from the left which neither Damonte nor Martín Andrizzi ended up meeting, both expecting the other to jump for the header, and Arsenal’s chance of winning the game was gone. Minutes later, in stoppage time, Belluschi smacked in a shot from outside the area which Mario Cuenca in the Arsenal goal just got to low down to maintain parity.

It’s all set for the return in the Monumental next Wednesday, then. We can only hope it’ll be a somewhat better match…


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