While Atlético Tucumán were looking to make history and lift a first major title, River Plate were attempting to gloss over what has been a desperately disappointing six months. It was far from a vintage display from Marcelo Gallardo’s side but Los Millonarios successfully defended their Copa Argentina crown with a 2-1 win in Mendoza to end an underwhelming year on a high.
Gallardo’s job may not have been at risk but there was still a sense that River needed to lift the Copa Argentina after exiting the Copa Libertadores in the semi finals and finding themselves twelve points adrift of the leaders in the Superliga.
That urgency was clear from the players in the opening exchanges in Mendoza and after nine minutes, River led. Atlético failed to adequately clear a River corner from the left and when the ball was headed back into the penalty area, Ignacio Scocco was played onside to nod the ball past Alejandro Sánchez.
The River of old would probably have picked off Atlético from this position but their recent defensive frailties were immediately exposed and Luís Rodríguez tapped in an equaliser a minute after falling behind.
The rest of the first half passed without real incident and lacking quality but it took only a couple of minutes after the restart for River to retake the lead. Ignacio Fernández, who has been guilty of a real drop in form in recent weeks, trapped a deep cross on the right and with his next touch bent a left foot shot into the top corner.
Jonathan Maidana, another to have dipped well below his expected level, almost gifted Pulga Rodríguez a second but the striker’s attempted lob drifted over the bar.
Scocco missed a good opportunity to extend the lead and could perhaps have been awarded a penalty before Maidana hit the post but despite not finding a third goal, River held on.
Gallardo and the supporters know that River require some major new additions in the coming window if they are to have a successful 2018 but retaining the Copa Argentina has at least not written off the season so far. Atlético Tucumán fell just short but find some consolation in a 2018 Copa Libertadores place as runners-up.