Argentina had two sides in the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday night, and there were mixed feelings for them. Arsenal de Sarandí were aiming to atone for the 6-0 drubbing they received in the Maracana against Fluminense a week ago, but couldn’t do so, losing at home to LDU Quito. River Plate, a couple of hours later, visited Universidad Católica in Chile and relied on another late winner to go with Ariel Ortega’s strike against América a fortnight ago – this time from Mauro Rosales. Both match reports – and the goals – right here.
Against all expectations, Arsenal’s Ecuadorian visitors came out from the start on the attack, aiming to put their hosts on the back foot, evidently having seen the performance last week and decided that, well, why shouldn’t they have a go? Argentine midfielder Damián Manso directed their attacks whilst supporting Claudio Bieler up front. But for better finishing, Quito might have had three in the opening 20 minutes, with Bieler, William Araujo and Luís Bolaños all going close.
This caused Gustavo Alfaro to change Arsenal’s tactics, switching to a flat back four which gave more stability, and allowed the hosts to create a couple of chances of their own before the break – albeit from set pieces. In the second half, though, Quito once again asserted themselves, Manso continuing his impressive performance whilst Joffre Guerrón Méndez on the right wing caused some major problems for his opponents. It was Guerrón who played the decisive part, bursting into the box in the 79th minute and being brought down by goalkeeper Mario Cuenca. Patricio Urrutia scored the penalty, and Arsenal couldn’t find the time for an equaliser in the eleven remaining minutes. They’re third in Group 8 with 3 points – Fluminense have 4 and Quito 7, whilst Libertad have yet to get off the mark.
River, later on, had an odd sort of match. The game itself was undeniably entertaining, end-to-end stuff with good chances missed at both ends and a fine goal to draw hosts Universidad Católica level in the first minute of the second half. River themselves, though, still didn’t look entirely convincing as an attacking force, in spite of Ariel Ortega’s best efforts and subtlest flicks and passes. After an opening period which had largely cagey, River took the lead as Augusto Fernández pounced on a defensive error and squared the ball to Sebastián Abreu, who slotted into an empty net from the edge of the box.
Católica’s equaliser was a fine one, striker Ailton dropping deep to the right and putting a fine cross-field ball over to Iván Vázquez on the left, who took it to the byline and cut it back for Roberto Gutiérrez to level. There followed a half of chances at both ends, in which River ‘keeper Juan Pablo Carrizo was perhaps the most impressive player, pulling off one particularly memorable save from a 25-ish-yard free kick to keep his side level.
River seemed to be settling for a point when the hosts’ right midfielder, Gary Medel, dallied on the ball and allowed Diego Buonanotte, recently introduced for Matías Abelairas, to dart past him and whip in a cross from the left wing which Mauro Rosales pounced on after a defender slipped on it, to finish past goalkeeper and defender from a narrow angle, with three minutes of the 90 left.
With this victory – their first competitive win of the season outside the Monumental, and likewise their first under Diego Simeone – River go to the top of Group 5 with six points – the other three sides all have 3, although San Martín and América don’t play each other until Thursday night.
Arsenal 0 – 1 Quito
Universidad Católica 1 – 2 River Plate
In my opinion, Carrizo is almost always River’s best player, even in those ‘comfortable’ home wins. River’s defending is so haphazard that if not for his heroics, they could easily concede 3 goals a game, no matter the opponent. Anyway, this is a great result. It’s starting to look as if last year’s Libertadores nightmare will not be repeating itself.