The Copa Argentina may not be the highest of priority for River Plate but it didn’t stop Marcelo Gallardo’s side booking their place in the quarter-final with a comfortable victory over Godoy Cruz in Lanús.
The scoreline doesn’t reflect quite how dominant River were and Godoy Cruz will perhaps feel relieved that losing to only a Joaquín Varela own-goal presents a false sense of competitiveness.
A strong River starting eleven led after 21 minutes and from that point the result never really looked in doubt. Nacho Fernández, ‘the best player in Argentina’ according to Juan Román Riquelme, whipped in a free-kick and Varela’s attempt to head clear only skimmed the ball past goalkeeper Andrés Mehring.
Godoy Cruz would have one glorious chance to equalise when Leandro Vella was put through on goal shortly after but Franco Armani stood tall to block the shot and it was to be the only save the River goalkeeper would make.
A number of chances went missing for River with Rafael Santos Borré the main culprit, the Colombian slipping back into his frustrating, wasteful form in front of goal.
And even after Tomás Cardona was sent off ten minutes from time, River still couldn’t make absolutely certain. Nacho Fernández rattled the crossbar with a free-kick and Jorge Carrascal fired wide from close range but the second goal never came.
It didn’t matter and River marched on without too many concerns but Gallardo will want to see far greater efficiency in front of goal when the stakes are raised in the Copa Libertadores.
Such is the scheduling of the Copa Argentina, on the same night that River booked their place in the quarter-final, possible opponents Talleres set up their last 16 clash with Almagro after a penalty shootout win over Banfield.
A goalless draw in Rosario was low on clear cut goal scoring opportunities but high on red cards as both teams ended with ten men. Juan Komar given his marching orders for pulling down Junior Arias when through on goal in the first half and Luciano Lollo levelling it up with a boot to the mid-section of Tomás Pochettino.
Both sides missed one spot kick apiece in their opening five and so when Agustín Urzi hit the crossbar in sudden death it was left to Enzo Díaz to roll in the winner. Talleres play giant-killers Almagro, who knocked out Boca Juniors, for a chance to face River in the quarter-final.