Two Argentine sides were in action in the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday night. Arsenal de Sarandí, Copa Sudamericana holders, continued to embarrass themselves in the bigger competition, conceding six goals for the second time in this group stage, this time at altitude to LDU Quito. River Plate, meanwhile, virtually assured their presence in the second round with an almost walking-pace victory at home to Universidad Católica, 2-0.
La Liga had already beaten Arsenal 1-0 in Buenos Aires, started the match knowing that a win would take them through to the last 16. Luciano Leguizamón had other ideas, scoring with a fantastic volley to put Arsenal ahead after just four minutes. The lead lasted just eleven minutes, though, and thereafter the visitors fell to pieces.
Cristián Díaz turned into his own net to give Quito the equaliser after the hosts had responded to Leguizamón’s strike by unfussily and calmly cranking up the pressure in the final third. Patricio Urrutia, the goalscorer from the penalty spot when the sides met previously, won in the air from a corner, and after cannoning about the ball went in off Díaz’s knee. The others were rather less scrappy.
Four minutes after levelling, Quito were ahead through a fine Damián Manso free kick. Luis Bolaños came up with two cool finishes in one-on-one situations after being played through to make it 4-1 by half time, and in the second half, though they eased up, Quito added two more. Argentine Claudio Bieler made it five with a header from a Joffre Guerrón cross. Shortly after that, Arsenal boss Gustavo Alfaro was sent to the stands, and midfielder Carlos Casteglione followed him five minutes later. All that remained was for Alfonso Obregón to hit a lovely right-footer in to make it 6-1 and confirm, in style, that LDU Quito are the first side into this year’s Copa Libertadores knockout stages.
River Plate will almost certainly join them, banishing the memories of last year’s appalling performances at this stage with another effective performance under Diego Simeone. It’s beginning to become a familiar pattern: very hard to break down at the back and good enough at keeping hold of the ball to make life difficult for their opponents, River also have strikers good enough to take maximum advantage of the chances that come their way (and Sebastián Abreu).
Radamel Falco García got things going after just 37 seconds, after a nice bit of passing saw Abreu head the ball down to him. His initial shot was pushed into the air by former River goalkeeper José Buljubasich (who, during his time in Chile, set a since-broken world record for most minutes without conceding a goal), but fell again for Falcao who made no mistake second time round.
Católica didn’t offer much, playmaker Darío Bottinelli having a quiet night whilst for River, Diego Buonanotte was inspired on the left flank. The second half, though, got more difficult – River lost Oscar Ahumada late in the first half Eduardo Tuzzio early in the second, both to injury, and with those two went a lot of the composure on the ball and defensive solidity between midfield and defence. They survived, though, and when substitute Luis Núñez was sent off for going in two-footed on Matías Abelairas, there was little more the Chileans could offer. In the 26th minute, Nicolás Domingo escaped down the right and put a cross in which Buljubasich could only push towards Abreu. Even the Uruguayan wasn’t going to let that chance go begging, and River led 2-0 to easily close the match out. Barring a spectacular collapse (one point from their final two games is enough), they’ll be in the last 16.
Check back tomorrow for the goals from both matches.