Friday, April 29, 2016

Defending champions on verge of elimination

River Plate's result crisis seems to find no end. Last night, they lost 2-0 away to Independiente del Valle and find themselves on the verge of elimination after the first leg of their round of 16 matchup already.

Librado Azcona celebrates his team's goals. (Photo: Conmebol)
It was the first game back in Ecuador after many earthquakes had kept the country on its toes for several days. Independiente's stadium was nicely filled and sporting a positive atmosphere for their countries' only survivor in the Copa Libertadores.


Independiente del Valle made one change from their 0-0 draw against Colo Colo which got them to the round of 16 in the first place. Bryan Cabezas replaces Emiliano Tellechea. For River, Marcelo Gallardo made two swaps to their starting XI. Lucas Alario and Ignacio Fernández were replaced by Sebastián Driussi and Leonardo Ponzio.

First half

The home team produced the better start with the first few shots towards Marcelo Barovero's goal. Sornoza and Angulo were denied or lacked the right finish during the early stages. River came closest when Andrés D'Alessandro lobbed a ball from midfield over the complete home defense, but Driussi arrived a step too late.

Independiente were the better team of the first half, but could not make it count on their few half chances. More was not in this game through 45 minutes.

Second half

The second half began like the first one ended. Independiente risked more offensively, always in danger of running into a counter. Arroyo, Angulo and Sornoza had opportunities going wide for Ecuador's side, as did Ponzio and Driussi for the Argentines on the other side.

For all the precision that was heavily lacking throughout the first hour, José Angulo did things a lot better after 64 minutes. River lost the ball going forward to Luis Caicedo, who passed it on to Sornoza. His long pass to the left wing opened up a lot of room for the run of Cabezas. The speedy cross was missed by all defenders and landed right on Angulo's foot. Independiente's striker made no mistake and nailed the ball right under the crossbar for a 1-0 lead against the favourites.

Gallardo reacted by bringing on Lucas Alario right away, but an effect could not be seen until the last 10 minutes for the final offense, mainly through Rodrigo Mora. Instead, Barovero had to make further fine saves against the likes of Uchuari and Sornoza for the time being.

In the third minute of added time, it was Independiente del Valle putting one foot into the quarterfinal door by scoring their second goal of the night. The Ecuadorians played a good counter and Tellechea was brought down by Maidana. Junior Sornoza shot right down the middle and finally got his deserved goal on this evening. Shortly after, the referee blew for full-time.


A deserved win for Independiente del Valle, who were simply the better team across the pitch. Sornoza played a key role up front and scored his fifth goal of the competition. Whether it looks the same over at El Monumental in the second leg is another question. River definitely have to find a way to generate more pressure against an - on paper - weaker opponent. Leaving Mora and Alario on the bench was a mistake by Gallardo and cannot happen again, if his team wants to have any chance of turning this tie around to defend their crown.


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