River Plate edged closer to a place in the 2020 Copa Libertadores on Saturday evening with victory over Talleres in Córdoba.
Ignacio Fernández was the unlikely match winner with two first half goals of the type of quality usually associated with Colombian Juan Fernando Quintero. But with the left-footed magician facing months on the sidelines with a knee injury, Fernández stepped up to score two sublime goals, handing River a vital three points and leaving Atlético Tucumán six points adrift in fifth.
Rafael Santos Borré had already missed one glorious opportunity when River took the lead and while the 23-year-old is going through a barren spell in front of goal, Santos Borré did play a part in the opener. Lucas Pratto’s flicked header found his strike partner and after being back-heeled back into the path of Pratto, the centre forward slipped in Fernández to emphatically finish past Guido Herrera.
Moments later and Fernández doubled the lead with a goal straight from the Quintero playbook. A free-kick right out on the touchline to the right was better suited for a delivery into the penalty area and while Guido Herrera tried to organise his defence, Nacho whipped the ball over the goalkeeper’s head and into the net.
River’s task was made more complicated by Nicolás de la Cruz being shown a second yellow card shortly after half time but when Talleres did find a way through the visitors’ defence, Franco Armani was equal to everything.
Atlético Tucumán play Aldosivi on Sunday in need of a win to close the gap to three ahead of the final weekend of the season.
Talleres 0 – 2 River Plate
Vélez Sarsfield still harboured slim hopes of their own Libertadores qualification when Gabriel Heinze’s side kicked off against Independiente but despite going ahead early, a 2-1 defeat in Avellaneda ended any chance of catching River.
A mix-up between Fabricio Bustos and Juan Sánchez Miño allowed Agustín Bouzat to steal possession in a dangerous area and a simple pass to Leandro Fernández saw the striker, on-loan from Independiente, open the scoring against his parent club.
A desperately poor first half only served to increase pressure on Independiente and manager Ariel Holan but despite El Rojo’s form the reaction after the break was positive. Silvio Romero, in desperate need of a goal, had seen Lucas Hoyos superbly keep out a first half header, yet the Vélez goalkeeper could do little to stop Romero thrashing in an equaliser after 55 minutes.
With the home side increasing the pressure Pablo Hernández was guilty of wasting the best chance and as the draw was beginning to look likely, El Rojo snatched a winner. Fernando Gaibor’s inswinging free-kick hit the crossbar and as Emanuel Brítez hooked the ball back across goal, Pablo Pérez was on hand to stab it in from close range.
Victory put Independiente on the brink of Copa Sudamericana qualification for next year as their 2019 campaign kicks off this week but more importantly it was a response and a victory that answered some of the critics during a hugely disappointing few months.
Independiente 2 – 1 Vélez Sarsfield
It wasn’t only cup qualification that teams were fighting for and Patronato travelled to Mendoza hoping to take a huge step towards safety.
However, a 2-1 defeat to Godoy Cruz left Patronato three points clear of the drop zone with rivals Belgrano, San Martín de San Juan and Tigre all yet to play. After a goalless first half, Victorio Ramis put Godoy Cruz in front and although Faustino Dettler poked in an equaliser on the hour mark, Miguel Merentiel’s long range effort won it for El Tomba.
Defeat for Patronato means that the relegation battle will certainly go down to the final weekend with only three points separating four teams competing for one remaining safe position.
Godoy Cruz 2 – 1 Patronato
Gimnasia secured their Superliga survival a couple of weeks ago and were within seconds of taking three points from San Lorenzo until an injury time equaliser.
Bottom of the league, penalised six points and facing a transfer ban, things could barely be going worse for San Lorenzo so when Jan Carlos Hurtado put Gimnasia in front against the run of play, supporters in the Nuevo Gasómetro could have been excused for thinking it was to be another of those days.
However, luck didn’t completely escape San Lorenzo and deep in stoppage time Marcelo Herrera’s shot from outside the box took a huge deflection to wrong foot Sebastián Moyano snatching a share of the points.