An electric Bombonera was the only guarantee from Sunday’s rescheduled Copa Libertadores final and while the atmosphere didn’t disappoint neither did the game as Boca Juniors and River Plate played out an absorbing 2-2 draw.
24 hours later than planned due to Saturday’s torrential downpours in Buenos Aires saw the two Argentine heavyweights lock horns in the Libertadores final for the first time and Boca Juniors will certainly be the more disappointed after twice surrendering a lead to allow rivals River Plate to earn a valuable draw.
Despite Marcelo Gallardo being forced to watch the game on television back at the Monumental due to his stadium ban, River started much the better side and Boca goalkeeper Agustín Rossi was forced to answer his critics early.
A fine save from Gonzalo Martínez, another to deny Rafael Santos Borré in addition to Lucas Martínez Quarta heading wide and Cristian Pavón being forced off with an apparent hamstring injury meant it was a worrying opening half hour for the home fans.
However, after 34 minutes La Bombonera exploded. Ramón Ábila saw an initial shot saved by Franco Armani but was able to fire off a rebound that bounced under the Argentina goalkeeper.
The stadium was still celebrating the goal when River levelled, Pity Martínez’s pass cutting the Boca defence open with ease and allowing Lucas Pratto to race through and finish into Rossi’s far post.
River’s industrious eleven selected to keep things tight in La Bombonera were still having the better of things but after Rossi was again forced to save from Martínez it was Boca who led. Darío Benedetto, on as an early replacement for Pavón, rose to flick Sebastián Villa’s free-kick into the net on the stroke of half time.
Regardless of the two goals, Boca had yet to really click and having lost Pavón to injury were disjointed in a lop-sided 4-4-2 that allowed River to continue dictating play.
When River equalised on the hour mark it came as little surprise. A free kick taken by Martínez, similar to the one that saw Benedetto score, had Pratto as its intended target but Boca centre back Carlos Izquierdoz in his stretched attempt to clear could only glance the ball into his own net from close range.
With River more than content with the score the game gradually began to wind down and it was only after the introduction of Carlos Tevez that Boca almost snatched it. The club icon jinked through at the death to square for Benedetto but with the goal gaping, Franco Armani rushed out to block the shot and save River.
Saturday November 24th the two sides do it all again at the iconic Monumental. Boca desperate to provide the most bitter of blows by lifting the Libertadores in the home of their rivals have plenty to do after River will feel like they won the first battle of the war.