For 82 minutes, it was frustration for River Plate on Sunday afternoon, as their attacking intentions foundered against the spirited resistance of Rosario Central’s defence and, in particular, a sterling performance from visiting goalkeeper Jorge Broun. It was left for captain Eduardo Tuzzio to finally put the champions ahead with a header from a corner which, despite touching, Broun couldn’t keep out. On the stroke of full time, Andrés Ríos gave the score a more respectable look with a beautiful strike from outside the box, and Diego Simeone’s side have their first win of the Apertura.
Simeone’s plans had been thrown into last-minute turmoil when, on Sunday morning, Radamel Falco García suffered a recurrence of an injury which kept him out of the end of River’s pre-season and the opening weekend of the Apertura, meaning an unfamiliar looking strikeforce. Mauro Rosales started on the right of a front trio in Simeone’s re-jigged 3-4-3. Former Newell’s Old Boys striker Santiago Salcedo was given his debut through the middle against his old side’s great rivals, and on the left youngster Gustavo Bou made his first appearance for the first team. Central, with Ezequiel González playing enganche in a 4-3-1-2, set out to take the game to River.
The hosts ended up showing their superiority, but were made to work hard and pushed all the way by a Central side who, having taken the scalp of Estudiantes in the opening match of the championship, look determined not to get involved in another relegation scrap this year. All the same though, goalkeeper Broun was the best player for the visitors, keeping out a number of chances from Rosales, Salcedo (who also hit the crossbar in the first half) and, after a delightful passing exchange which took in half the River team, debutant Bou.
In the second half, the gap between River’s midfield and attack began to look a little too obvious, and to remedy the situation Simeone introduced Uruguayan playmaker Robert Flores, scorer of the goal last weekend away to Colón, who immediately added a fluency to the hosts’ play that had been missing before. As Central improved through the two Gonzálezes (Ezequiel and Kily), Flores did, however, scuff the best chance River had in the second half off target.
The best chance, that is, until the goals finally arrived. Tuzzio, with eight minutes of the ninety left, rose above everyone to send a header crashing against the underside of the crossbar which bounced down just inside the post. Broun got a hand to it and dragged it back across the line, but the linesman had seen already and River, at last, had the lead. And as the clock ticked into stoppage time, it was finally beyond doubt as Ríos, who’d been introduced for Bou at half time, exchanged passes with Rosales and send a right footed drive low and true into the bottom corner of the net from 25 yards out. Central will play worse than this and win, but for River it was all about getting their title defence up and running.