You could tell it wasn’t the league campaign, because River Plate, having crossed the estuary the club took its name from to Montevideo, actually won a match, and it was thanks to two goals from a rather unexpected source. Sebastián Abreu’s transfer back to River from Israel only went through on Wednesday, clearing him to play in this match, and in his home country, against one of his (many) former teams, El Loco used up what might – given his previous scoring record with River – prove to be half of his quota of goals for the year. Only a daft mistake to give the hosts a lifeline near the end marred the night.
Abreu opened the scoring by stabbing from close range from a corner after only eight minutes, and there followed a match in which River controlled the ball well but had to withstand pressure from Defensor, who counter-attacked with great gusto but not an awful lot of precision. Juan Manuel Ojeda looked confident in his area and marshalled the River backline well, whilst in attack River came close a number of times to doubling the lead. Diego Buonanotte had perhaps the best chance in the 40th minute, but home goalkeeper Martín Silva saved well and at the break it was just the on for River.
In the second half Defensor looked better, and but for Ojeda they might have gained parity before, in the 56th minute, Abreu pounced on a loose ball after a long shot from Matías Abelairas was spilled by Silva right into his countryman’s path. River, with the lead doubled, were able to relax a little, but this being River they couldn’t make things too easy for themselves. Augusto Fernández saw red in the 78th minute for a hard tackle which, in fairness to him, did take the ball well, but also a fair chunk of the man. With five minutes left, Ojeda misjudged a curved free kick from deep on the right wing, and got nowhere near the ball, allowing Mario Risso to get a consolation on the goal line which might prove vital come the second leg, next Thursday.
Copa Sudamericana last sixteen: Defensor Sporting 2 – 1 River Plate: