River Plate had one foot in the semi-finals already after last week’s 2-0 win over Nacional in Avellaneda but emphatically set a date with Palmeiras with a 6-2 victory over ten-man Nacional on Thursday evening.
An already monumental task became all the more difficult for the Uruguayans when goalkeeper Sergio Rochet, the hero from the previous round, got himself needlessly sent off after only 17 minutes.
It didn’t take long for River to take advantage and ensure the tie as a contest was over. Jorge Carrascal, increasingly pushing for a starting role in Marcelo Gallardo’s plans, found space and jinked inside to deliver an exquisite finish into the top corner.
Before long it was two with Nicolás De La Cruz finding the same spot of the Nacional goal from outside the box and while Ayrton Cougo took advantage of a careless River defence to pull one back before the break, it was already damage limitation.
Bruno Zuculini, enjoying the opportunity to get forward, added a simple third and although Nacional would again make the most of generous River defending to score through substitute Santiago Rodríguez it was all one-way traffic.
If there was little River could take from such a game one important factor was Rafael Santos Borré finding his touch in front of goal once more and the Colombian did just that. The simplest of hat-tricks from close range wrapped up victory and made it six goals in this year’s tournament for Santos Borré.
River will need the Colombian back to his best if they are to go one better than last year in the Copa Libertadores. Palmeiras will certainly pose a far greater threat than Nacional and the two giants will lock horns at the start of January.
The Copa Sudamericana semi final is also complete and Lanús booked their place with a 3-1 second leg win over Independiente in Avellaneda.
Delicately poised after a goalless first leg the two sides were looking to set up a showdown with Vélez Sarsfield but Independiente’s hopes were extinguished in the opening 45 minutes. A disastrous defensive display punished by an unforgiving Lanús attack.
Tomás Belmonte drilled the visitors in front from the edge of the box after quarter of an hour and two minutes later José Sand doubled the lead. Independiente defender Alan Franco, who had looked likely to miss the game through injury, looked at odds with central defensive partner Alexander Barboza and when the pair both left a simple ball over the top to allow Nicolás Orsini to lob in a third before the break it was game over.
In need for four unanswered goals Independiente pushed for a way back but took until the 88th minute for Andrés Roa to slide in a consolation. A limp exit for El Rojo who must now focus on the Copa Diego Maradona while Lanús head to a semi final with Vélez knowing that the chance to add a second international title has perhaps never been better. Like El Granate, Vélez have been inconsistent so far under Mauricio Pellegrino but the winner of that semi-final up against either Defensa y Justicia or Coquimbo Unido in Córdoba will be favourite.