River Plate could have guaranteed their place in the Copa Libertadores last 16 on Wednesday night in Morumbí but were undone by former Boca Juniors striker Jonathan Calleri. The 22-year-old, who is now the tournament’s leading scorer, struck twice to give São Paulo a vital win and set up an exciting final round of fixtures in group one.
After a slow start and an embarrassing home defeat to The Strongest, São Paulo have improved as the competition has progressed and the Tricolor were the better side in the opening stages of their clash with River. Following his four goals against Trujillanos in the previous match, Jonathan Calleri was likely to be the main threat and after 28 minutes, the former Boca striker got the goal that we would have been so desperate for. Calleri controlled Bruno’s cross from the right on his chest and his powerful volley was too much for Marcelo Barovero to repel.
On the hour mark, Calleri doubled the lead with a simple, close range header despite a hint of a push on Leonel Vangioni as Michel Bastos’ free kick arrived in the six yard box. The 22-year-old’s complicated switch to Brazil drew many critical glances but with seven goals in this year’s Copa Libertadores (an average of one every 48 minutes) Calleri is only enhancing his reputation ahead of a move to Europe.
River began to lose their heads and when Andrés D’Alessandro’s late tackle sparked a melee, Leonel Vangioni was shown a red card for a slap to the face of the tormentor-in-chief, Calleri.
Iván Alonso pulled a goal back for the ten men with minutes remaining but the home side held on for all three points.
Despite defeat remain strong favourites to top group one given they finish the group with the visit of Trujillanos to the Monumental. For the holders to miss out on the last 16 all together would require an impossibly heavy defeat and a draw in the group’s other remaining match. São Paulo’s trip to face The Strongest is substantially more difficult and makes last night’s three points all the more important.
São Paulo 2 – 1 River Plate