Will it never end? Another Argentine side began their Copa Libertadores campaign on Wednesday night, and yet again the result was a win for the opposition. River went out with the best of intentions, Diego Simeone setting his side up in an only slightly more cautious formation than for Sunday’s Clausura opener against Gimnasia de Jujuy, but the execution of the plan was poor, and their Peruvian hosts took full advantage.
Sebastián Abreu, making his debut for River, had the first chance of the match but headed just wide of goal, and it looked like a promising start for the visitors, but in the fourteenth minute everything changed. A free kick from more than 30 yards out was looped towards the near post, where Paraguayan striker Roberto Ovelar met it with his head to send it past Juan Pablo Carrizo and give the Peruvian minnows an unlikely lead.
River went searching for the equaliser, but their attacks only had one real idea: get the ball to Abreu and hope the new boy could stick it in the net. Shortly after the goal, he had two great chances in about a minute, but the pressure was too much and he saw them both go begging. Promising (if limited) though the attacks were, though, River clearly had a problem at the back, where Carrizo had to bail his defenders out more than once, and assurance was seriously lacking. Ovelar hit the post shortly before the break, which the visitors were happy to see.
Radamel Falcao García came on for Nicolás Domingo at half time as Simeone rejigged the team to try and provide more presence up front, but the ideas from midfield were still lacking and in spite of further changes – the introductions of Mauro Rosales and Matías Abelairas – River couldn’t force anything until, with nine minutes left, Abreu brought down a ball forward and pivoted. He could only hit it with his weaker right foot, though, and home ‘keeper Leao Butrón was more than equal to it.
In the final minute, Argentine José Luis Díaz put his countrymen’s lingering hopes of a point to bed, collecting the ball in the middle of the pitch and driving past two River defenders before beating Carrizo to send the Lima crowd wild. River, like Lanús and Estudiantes before them, have started poorly, and will need to have a long hard think on the way back to Buenos Aires.