Racing Club will certainly still feel aggrieved by CONMEBOL’s decision to not punish River Plate over what has now been dubbed Zuculini-gate but with the tie still in the balance after the goalless first leg there was no questioning Los Millonarios’ superiority in the return match.
A ferocious display, typical of Marcelo Gallardo’s side in cup competition, proved too much for Racing and while both sides had chances, goals by Lucas Pratto, Exequiel Palacios and Rafael Santos Borré fired River into the quarter finals.
Question marks hung over River prior to kick off after a run of four consecutive goalless draws and with Leonardo Ponzio and Bruno Zuculini suspended, Gonzalo Martínez injured and Ignacio Scocco fit only for a place on the bench, Racing arrived at the Monumental in optimistic mood.
A lively start from both sides suggested another stalemate looked unlikely and with ten minutes on the clock River finally found the net. A superb passing move cut through the Racing defence and when Rafael Santos Borré’s cutback found Lucas Pratto, the record signing finished emphatically.
One goal didn’t change Racing’s task a great deal and La Academia continued to pose a threat with Matías Zaracho drawing a decent stop from the seemingly unbeatable Franco Armani.
River had already shown an ability to counter and after 27 minutes Racing gifted an opportunity. Neri Cardozo got his wires crossed from a Racing free-kick on the right and in passing directly to Exequiel Palacios, the young midfielder sparked a rapid break from the edge of the River penalty area. Juan Fernando Quintero inadvertently saw the ball break back to Palacios and Argentina’s most recent call-up slotted past Gabriel Arias.
Racing simply had to score next but when Nery Domínguez volleyed over from yards out and Armani got down quickly to a Gustavo Bou header, it didn’t look like the visitors comeback would arrive.
Instead, ten minutes from time, Santos Borré stabbed in from a corner and with it the tie was over.
There was still time for Enzo Pérez to ignite a brawl between the players that saw both he and Ricardo Centurión see red and Racing would end the game with nine after Alexis Soto saw a second yellow but La Academia’s dream of setting up a Clásico de Avellaneda in the quarter finals was over.
Whether or not River Plate are back remains to be seen but the clash with Independiente promises to be another epic.