While some of Argentina’s other representatives in this year’s Copa Libertadores still have plenty to do in order to guarantee progression, River Plate and Racing Club secured passage to the last 16 on Thursday evening with 1-0 victories over Independiente Santa Fe and Universidad de Chile respectively.
River’s victory in Bogotá was indicative of their progress in recent weeks with Juan Fernando Quintero providing the guile, Lucas Pratto the goals and Franco Armani ensuring a clean sheet.
It was again far from the free-flowing River of a year or so ago, but Marcelo Gallardo’s side did enough to win.
Quintero, starting for a change, provided the game’s decisive moment, bursting forward before slipping in Pratto to cooly slot the ball past Robinson Zapata after 23 minutes.
Zapata would twice deny Quintero during a first half in which River posed an attacking threat but as the game went on, Los Millonarios would drop deeper and soak up the Santa Fe pressure.
Argentina’s World Cup squad is still unknown but Franco Armani continues to bolster his claim and another string of good stops ensured that River held onto their lead and took the three points required to guarantee a place in the last 16 with a game to spare in Group D.
Independiente Santa Fe 0 – 1 River Plate
Earlier in Avellaneda, Racing Club also maintained their unbeaten run in this year’s competition and eventually earned a 1-0 win over Universidad de Chile to secure a place in the next round.
La Academia weren’t at their best against a Universidad de Chile side playing to try and remain in the tournament but as the Chilean club failed to make the most of the opportunities that came their way, Racing punished them.
Neither Lisandro López nor Lautaro Martínez were able to take the chances that had come Racing’s way and so it was left to defender Alejandro Donatti to find the winner.
The defender has been no stranger to scoring goals since his arrival and with nine minutes remaining, drilled a well-struck shot from outside the box in off the foot of the post.
Ricardo Centurión’s celebrations drew an angry response from Lorenzo Reyes, who saw red in the aftermath and Racing were able to see out the win to ensure they travel to Belo Horizonte in two weeks with nothing but top spot to play for.