Yet to win in this year’s competition, champions River Plate were under a degree of pressure when Alianza Lima visited an empty Monumental on Thursday evening but as ever when Marcelo Gallardo’s side need a result, the response is emphatic.
Far greater tests lie ahead than a limited Alianza Lima side, who never looked like troubling River, but with a first win of the campaign River are up into second behind leaders Internacional and the meeting against Palestino next could hardly be set up better.
It took fifteen minutes for River to find a breakthrough and while Matías Suárez’s cut inside and finish was superb, the assist from Nicolás De La Cruz warranted praise. The Uruguayan youngster hasn’t had an easy time since making the move across the Rio de la Plata but is beginning to repay the faith shown in him by Gallardo with a string of fine performances.
Soon after, the lead should have been doubled. De La Cruz was tripped in the box and Lucas Pratto, cool enough to slot in from the spot last week against Internacional, blazed the penalty over.
River should have been further ahead but didn’t have to wait too long in the second half to double their lead, a corner from the right headed in with ease by an inexplicably unmarked Lucas Martínez Quarta.
The result was then never in doubt and the visitors still didn’t look like coming out of their shell to try and have a go at River and so it was left to De La Cruz to wrap up the win with a wonderful curling effort from 25 yards.
Three points at a canter for River puts qualification for the last 16 back on track but that could all come undone with defeat in Chile in two weeks. Provided Gallardo’s side can get a result against Palestino a spot in the knockout stages should be theirs.