While rivals Boca Juniors are one defeat away from an early elimination next week, River Plate look good for a place in the Copa Libertadores last 16 after a 2-1 win over Emelec to put Los Millonarios in control of Group D.
Still unbeaten in this year’s competition, River were again a little devoid of creativity until the second half introduction of Juan Quintero and this provided the catalyst for victory.
The closest River had come during a controlled but somewhat stagnant first half was a Rodrigo Mora free kick but with Emelec not posing much of a threat to Franco Armani’s goal, Marcelo Gallardo knew the game needed Quintero.
Five minutes after coming on the Colombian threaded a delicate little pass into the feet of Lucas Pratto and the centre-forward’s turn and powerful shot beat Esteban Dreer at his near post.
With the game now opened up, River doubled their lead and although Gonzalo Martínez was having one of his poorer games, the midfielder produced a special goal, bursting past the last defender to clip the ball over the head of Dreer.
The points were secured but Ayrton Preciado did smash in an injury time consolation for Emelec to become the first player to score past Franco Armani in 620 minutes.
River are now guaranteed at least Copa Sudamericana football but need only a draw next week in Colombia to secure a place in the last 16.
River Plate 2 – 1 Emelec
A little later in Rio de Janeiro and while Racing Club are also a step closer to qualifying for the last 16 it was undoubtedly two points dropped against Vasco da Gama.
Thrashing the Brazilians last week in Avellaneda, Racing knew that things would be tougher at the Estádio São Januário but that didn’t prevent the tournament’s top scorer in the group stages, Lautaro Martínez opening the scoring.
Ricardo Centurión led the counter, fed Martínez and although his initial effort was saved by Martín Silva, the Argentina international was able to slot in the rebound.
Although the goals didn’t flow as they did one week ago, Racing were still a threat and when Vasco da Gama were reduced to ten men early in the second half, Leandro Desábato shown a second yellow card, La Academia should have put the game to bed.
Alejandro Donatti and Martínez both missed clear chances and then ten minutes from time, the home side were level. Juan Musso could only parry Andrés Rios’ powerful shot and Wagner was on hand to poke in.
Cruzeiro put seven past Universidad de Chile in the groups other game and victory over the Chileans in the Cilindro next week books Racing’s place in the next round.