It may not quite have lived up to its billing but the Copa Libertadores last 16 clásico between Racing Club and River Plate was not without suspense and drama and after the goalless draw is now delicately poised for the second leg.
River will certainly be the happier with the result after seeing captain Leonardo Ponzio sent off before half time as Racing may live to regret not taking full advantage when they meet again in the Monumental.
The game started brightly with Gonzalo Martínez testing new Racing goalkeeper Gabriel Arias within a minute and the tricky Ricardo Centurión weaving his way into the River box before tumbling under a challenge to vociferous penalty appeals from around the Cilindro.
With nothing given the game continued back and forth. Javier Pinola volleying wide for River and Gustavo Bou stinging the palms of Franco Armani at the other.
However, the decisive moment came in stoppage time when the usually dependable Ponzio made a rash sliding challenge on Renzo Saravia and referee Anderson Daronco had little option but to brandish a second yellow card (even if he mistakenly showed it to Ezequiel Palacios initially).
Racing would have hoped to turn the screw after the break but perhaps lacking the sharpness of not playing a competitive game since last season, Eduardo Coudet’s side were never able to stretch River.
Gustavo Bou headed in but the referee had already whistled and a couple of half chances came and went but in truth River were comfortable.
With the tie still in the balance, the sides meet again at the Monumental in three weeks.
Racing Club 0 – 0 River Plate
Later in a reliably electric Estadio Monumental José Fierro, Atlético Tucumán scored a surprising 2-0 win over 2016 champions Atlético Nacional.
The Colombians may not be the team they were two years ago but were heavy favourites against an Atlético Tucumán side in the Libertadores knockout stages for the first time.
However, El Decano will always prove a handful on their own turf and Jorge Almirón’s side found that out first hand leaving a lot to do in Medellín if they are to reach the quarter finals as expected.
A horrendous error by former Lanús goalkeeper Fernando Monetti gifted Leandro Díaz an early opener when his underhit pass out from the back left the striker with an empty net but there was little response from the visitors.
And instead 20 minutes from time, the underdogs doubled their lead. A quick counter saw Leandro Díaz hit the underside of the crossbar and Guillermo Acosta was first to react to nod in the rebound.
There is no doubting that the second leg in Medellín in three weeks will be a far greater test but with a two-goal lead Atlético Tucumán have given themselves every chance of continuing the dream.
Atlético Tucumán 2 – 0 Atlético Nacional