An unadventurous display in the Estadio Monumental last week resulted in a 1-0 defeat so when River Plate snatched a two-goal lead in Tuesday’s second leg against Lanús, the identity of one Copa Libertadores finalist looked certain. However, El Granate, spearheaded by the ageless José Sand, roared back and with four unanswered goals sealed a dramatic 4-3 aggregate victory.
After a Ignacio Scocco penalty spot and a Gonzalo Montiel header had given River a two-goal lead and the away goals to leave Lanús needing four, many would have assumed that Lanús’ dream of a first ever Libertadores final was over.
River were controversially denied a second penalty before half time and moments later Sand provided a glimmer of hope, hammering past Germán Lux from a tight angle.
Marcelo Gallardo would have demanded focus after that stoppage time goal back but his River side were stunned immediately after the restart when a ball bobbled into the path of the deadly Sand, who emphatically found the bottom corner.
Lanús now sensed the most unlikely of fightbacks and Lautaro Acosta slid in from close range to put the home side ahead on the night.
With River on the ropes the decisive moment came with 20 minutes still remaining when a penalty awarded thanks to the Video Assistant Referee handed Lanús the chance to lead.
Alejandro Silva slid in from the spot to make it 4-2 on the evening and with River unable to find another and Nacho Fernández sent off, El Granate held for the most memorable moment in the club’s history.
The Copa Libertadores is no stranger to drama and shocks but the manner of Lanús’ comeback against Gallardo’s River will live long in the memory and may yet see Jorge Almirón claim the biggest prize in South American football.