Huracán caused a shock upset in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana semifinal as El Globo beat River Plate 1-0 at el Monumental thanks to a fortuitous (well, fluky) goal from midfielder Cristian Espinoza which he knew very little about.
Just three minutes into the game, Ramón Abila had a glorious chance to put the visitors ahead, after a corner made its way to the striker at the back post, but he couldn’t get a good enough connection on the ball from two meters out and the ball went wide. It was probably easier to score than to miss, but miss Abila somehow did and River was let off the hook for the time being.
Los Millonarios had been warned though that Huracán wasn’t going to make it easy for them, and 15 minutes into the match Espinoza scored what turned out to be the winner. Daniel Montenegro tried a through ball destined for Espinoza, but River left back Milton Casco intercepted it. Upon trying to clear the ball, Casco unwittingly kicked it straight at Espinoza and the ball rebounded off him and past helpless River goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero. While Casco was very unlucky, last night was a continuation of his struggles since he left Newell’s Old Boys to join River over the winter.
It could have been worse for the reigning Copa Sudamericana champions as five minutes from halftime, Abila again came close, this time though his shot took a deflection and went out for a corner, which came to nothing.
The interval saw River coach Marcelo Gallardo make two changes, bringing on Tabaré Viudez and Lucho González for Gonzalo Martínez and Sebastiaán Driussi. Not long afterwards, veteran striker Javier Saviola replaced Rodrigo Mora in a show of desperation, but the changes did at least see River create some chances. Poor old Casco had the chance to redeem himself, but his first time half volley went high and wide. Saviola also fired over the bar after a great play by Carlos Sánchez, before the Uruguayan winger himself fired well wide with just 10 minutes to go.
While River will rue some of its missed chances, things could have taken a significant turn for the worse in injury time when that man Abila was again denied, this time his exquisite chip rebounded off the crossbar to safety, and somehow the game finished with just the one goal to show for it as El Globo continues to confuse everyone: on the cusp of the Copa Sudamericana final yet still in danger of being relegated.
Losing last night was the culmination of a bad week for River, after watching arch rival Boca Juniors first clinch the league and then benefit from some suspect refereeing to win the Copa Argentina. It will have a tough task to turn this tie around on November 26 in Parque Patricios. The one crumb of comfort for River fans is that Carlos Sánchez revealed after the game that there’s a chance he may stay with the club. His contract runs out at the end of the year and he had been strongly expected to move away from the reigning Copa Sudamericana and Copa Libertadores champions after River travels to Japan in December to compete in the Club World Cup.