Two days later than scheduled River Plate finally hosted Banfield in their Copa Liga Profesional opener at the Estadio Libertadores de América rather than the club’s training ground but Marcelo Gallardo was left with more to think about than merely Argentinian football administrative issues.
With the Copa Libertadores last 16 less than three weeks away the sight of Nacho Fernández limping off to receive treatment on his thigh coupled with a defence that was routinely cut open by Banfield will be cause for concern.
Yet despite the surprising result things started well for River. Last season’s top scorer Rafael Santos Borré took six minutes to get off the mark in the cup with a free header from a Nicolás De La Cruz corner.
That might have been expected but the warning signs for River were also evident. Mauricio Cuero was causing all sorts of problems running in behind Milton Casco and having already laid on one glorious chance for Agustín Fontana to be thwarted by Franco Armani, the pair soon combined again for the 24-year-old striker to head Banfield’s equaliser.
It was a terrific team move from the visitors but if there were question marks over the River defending for the opener, there was an inquisition surrounding Banfield’s second soon after. Set-pieces have been River’s weakness for a while and once more on Tuesday evening a simple free-kick floated into the penalty box found Giuliano Galoppo unmarked six yards out to nod in unchallenged.
Had River’s attack been firing on all cylinders perhaps the defence would have been counterbalanced but there was little meaningful response from the Millonarios.
Nacho Fernández’s departure after the break compounding the problems only for Cuero to inflict more misery. The flying Colombian back for his second spell at the club left Javier Pinola in his wake and his cut-back was eventually bundled into the net by the River defender.
Banfield’s celebrations at full-time suggested they too were a little surprised by the result yet it was thoroughly deserved for the Taladro. The Copa is certainly not River’s priority and Rosario Central’s visit on Saturday provides an opportunity to immediately rectify the issue but Gallardo knows his side can’t afford many evenings like Tuesday.