Copa Libertadores: Franco Armani the penalty hero as River Plate edge past Cruzeiro & Godoy Cruz crash out to Palmeiras (VIDEO)

The defending champions are still alive in the Copa Libertadores as River Plate overcame Cruzeiro on penalties after a tense goalless draw in Belo Horizonte.

Franco Armani, no stranger to Libertadores heroics after lifting the trophy with Atlético Nacional and River, once again proved why he is one of the best on the continent to ensure Marcelo Gallardo’s side are in the quarter-finals.

It weren’t just two saves in the shootout that sent River through but a tremendous reflex stop that pushed Pedro Rocha’s point-blank effort up onto the crossbar in the early stages of the game that kept the tie goalless.

River fashioned chances of their own with Nacho Fernández bending a shot just wide and Rafael Santos Borré causing problems for Cruzeiro but the champions were unable to find the away goal that would have eased the tension.

With neither side willing to risk too much it ended just as it did in the Monumental one week ago and so penalties would decide the tie. Matías Suárez missing from the spot in the dying stages of last week could have been seen as an omen but River were perfect in the shootout.

Armani saved from Henrique and David and when Santos Borré rolled in River’s fourth, Los Millonarios were heading to the next round. Marcelo Gallardo knows his side must improve and they should as they move further away from preseason and perhaps finally add a new signing but against either San Lorenzo or Cerro Porteño the champions will be favourites.

In São Paulo, Godoy Cruz were not quite as fortunate and following a controversial penalty to break the deadlock El Tomba were swept aside by Palmeiras.

Allowing the Brazilians to claim a draw from two-down in Mendoza already meant that Godoy Cruz were underdogs for the second leg but Lucas Bernardi’s side managed to keep it tight up until the key moment shortly before the hour mark.

As Joaquín Varela tussled with Palmeiras striker Miguel Borja the ball bobbled up and struck the arm of the young Godoy Cruz defender when he was neither looking in the same direction nor denying any kind of goal scoring opportunity. Yet minutes later referee Esteban Ostojich reviewed with VAR and pointed to the spot.

El Tomba had raged over their Superliga defeat to San Lorenzo at the weekend due to a suspect late penalty and the visitors were once more incensed as Raphael Veiga slammed in from the spot to leave Godoy Cruz needing two.

That never looked likely and when an error by goalkeeper Andrés Mehring saw Miguel Borja roll in a second, the tie was as good as over. Gustavo Scarpa slotted in a third and Godoy Cruz saw Agustín Manzur sent off before Dudu added a fourth in stoppage time to make the scoreline all the more emphatic.

Godoy Cruz reaching this stage of the tournament was a shock in itself and so unsurprisingly it will be Palmeiras facing either Grêmio or Libertad in the quarter-final.


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