Coasting at the top

Falcao celebrates the game\'s only goal

When River Plate visited Tigre during the Clausura, the result was a 4-1 win for the hosts that pushed Daniel Passarella a little bit closer to the exit door at River. Today was the rematch, and the Millonarios showed just what a difference Diego Simeone is making at the club; they didn’t play particularly well but the attitude was there, and when a chance arrived Radamel Falcao García was on hand to convert it. River go back to the top of the table for another week, as the Clausura reaches the halfway stage.

The Ministry of Justice passed down a sanction as punishment for River’s recent barra brava trouble, which resulted in the home popular (behind the goal) being closed to fans, and combined with the onsetting autumn in Buenos Aires, the Monumental saw a notable drop in atmosphere as a result. And from the start, Tigre’s counter-attacking 4-4-2 caused problems for River’s attempt at a flowing 3-3-3-1. Román Martínez was in top form, spreading the ball about and driving Tigre’s attacks as the visitors left any trepidation they might have away to the leaders, and begun to dominate the game. Twenty minutes in, Sebastián Ereros saw the best chance yet go begging when he found himself, almost accidentally, one-on-one with Juan Pablo Carrizo, who once again showed his class in keeping the former Vélez forward out. It was only late on in the first half that River created anything, with Sebastián Abreu, back in the starting lineup, blazing over a left-footed shot.

Diego Simeone’s reaction at half-time will, of course, remain a mystery, but it’s fair to say he wasn’t too happy with his charges, because they came out looking like they’d had the fear of God put into them at the break, and played with much more energy and creativity in the second half. Diego Buonanotte, as so often, started to cause major headaches for the opposing defence, and it was from a foul on him that Matías Abelairas smacked the crossbar with a left-footed free kick with Tigre goalie Daniel Islas well beaten. Six minutes into the half, Falcao rose above all comers and put a towering header past Islas to give River the lead.

River could have added to the scoreline afterwards, but young Chilean Alexis Sánchez lacked coolness when put through a few minutes after the goal, and instead Tigre had a way back into the match when River’s cinco, Oscar Ahumada, saw two yellow cards in the space of three minutes to reduce the hosts to ten men. Simeone’s substitution was unequivocal: Sebastián Abreu, underperforming again, came off to be replaced by Eduardo Ponzio in order that River could continue with some equilibrium in their midfield. Just minutes later, though, Tigre defender Santiago Morero clattered Sánchez, saw red, and Tigre too were left with ten men. Afterwards, the match became more even and end-to-end, Buonanotte showing his promise at one end whilst Martínez once again displayed some nice touches at the other, and Ereros wasted Tigre’s best chance of the match.

When the whilst arrived doubts still persisted about Simeone’s River. Top of the table with fewer matches remaining than already played, they also play their final Copa Libertadores group match on Thursday, with qualification very much in their own hands. But they also have yet to start playing really well. All the same, if they keep winning, the trophyless years of previous management regimes might be about to come to an end…

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