Lautaro Martínez’s hat-trick gave Racing Club the dream start against Cruzeiro in this year’s Copa Libertadores and on Tuesday evening in Santiago, La Academia followed it up with a draw against Universidad de Chile.
A week after making his Argentina debut, Martínez wasn’t able to add to his tally but instead it was centre-back Alejandro Donatti who came to Racing’s rescue with a vital equaliser.
Universidad de Chile had also beaten Brazilian opposition in the opening round with victory away to Vasco da Gama and so the winners in Santiago would seize an early advantage in Group E.
And after a bright opening that had already seen Martínez go close from distance, La U led when Juan Musso could only parry Yeferson Soteldo’s shot allowing David Pizarro to slot in the rebound.
Martínez would again try his luck from range but it was Donatti who would bring Racing level, the defender’s free-kick sneaking through the wall and catching goalkeeper Johnny Herrera unaware.
It was Racing’s young dangerman who continued to threaten the home side and after going close twice, Martínez could have had another hat-trick, firing into the sidenetting after rounding Herrera.
Both sides had created chances but with referee Enrique Cáceres not afraid to whistle there was a tetchiness to the game that produced six first half yellow cards.
Opportunities at both ends continued after the break with Mauricio Pinelli stinging Musso’s palms with a volley and Neri Cardozo and Nery Domínguez both wasting chances for Racing.
However, the mounting yellow card count eventually took a victim and Racing midfielder Diego González saw red.
Eduardo Coudet’s tactical substitution prompted an angry response from Ricardo Centurión, who had been a target for Universidad de Chile throughout the game but with the talented yet temperamental star off the pitch Racing looked ready to settle for the point.
La U were unable to make the advantage count and with both sides hosting the Brazilian pair in two weeks, they could be in the driving seat at the half way point with victories.