While River Plate’s place in the Copa Argentina was expected for the past few months, Central Córdoba de Santiago del Estero will be the surprise rivals for the trophy.
The Ferroviario were playing in the Torneo Federal A in 2017 and after two promotions are not only in Argentina’s top flight but now in their first ever final. A 1-0 win over Lanús booked Central Córdoba’s place and they were joined by Marcelo Gallardo’s River, after a tighter than expected 2-0 win over Primera Nacional side Estudiantes de Buenos Aires.
Despite suffering an unexpected defeat in the clásico last weekend, Lanús were favourites to progress in La Rioja but another sub-par performances was punished.
And in spectacular fashion, Cristian Vega blasting the ball into the top corner from long range. Lanús had hit the woodwork through José Sand during the first half but were short of ideas when chasing an equaliser and Central Córdoba held on for a historic victory.
A first final for the Santiagueños, while later in Córdoba, River Plate reached their 15th under Marcelo Gallardo.
A dull first half in which River struggled to get going was broken just before Mauro Vigliano brought the opening 45 minutes to a close, Javier Pinola instinctively turning in at a corner.
There was little change after the break though an incorrect offside decision denied Rafael Santos Borré a goal which would have made things more comfortable.
Instead there was late controversy in Córdoba as Estudiantes bundled in a 90th minute equaliser only for Vigliano to run that the ball had been kicked out of Franco Armani’s hands. And instead with the Primera Nacional side pushing forward in stoppage time, River sealed victory. Exequiel Palacios running clear on the counter after an Estudiantes corner to roll into an empty net.
River will be heavy favourites when the two sides meet before the end of the year though if Gallardo’s side were to also lift the Copa Libertadores title, Central Córdoba would already have a place in the 2020 Libertadores confirmed.