With the news coming out of La Bombonera, it’s easy to forget that some actual football happened last night.
River Plate faced up against Independiente at the Monumental in one of the games which completed the fifth round of fixtures, in a potentially crucial clásico.
The Americán champions left it late to snatch the winning goal, with the match being played under practically tangible tension with both teams fully aware that obtaining victory was a near necessity.
Each team played positive football, always looking to bear down on the opposition’s goal, but with little success. Kind of like swimming through custard: the harder they tried, the harder it became.
The first chance fell to Independiente wideman Claudio Aquino, who controlled the ball on the penalty spot after a weak clearance from the River defense, but went for power over accuracy and ended up blasting his volley over from 12 yards out.
River striker Lucas Alario struck a viscous volley from 30 yards, forcing Independiente keeper Diego Rodríguez into a diving save. The offensive play was far more direct, with build-up play short and sweet. The aim, clearly, was to go straight for goal, with less dillydallying and more proactive play on the ball.
El Rojo had a chance from a freekick on the edge of the area, but midfielder Emiliano Rigoni’s curling effort was parried away by River number one Marcelo Barovero.
The second half began with a nasty clash of heads between River winger Camilo Mayada and Independiente left back Nicolás Tagliafico, but the former managed to get on the end of a cross only to head wide moments later.
After a number of decent shots raining in on River’s goal, most from afar, were turned away it appeared as if the game would end goalless, but the aforementioned Lucas Alario had something else in mind. In the 85th minute, after an initial header which was saved by El Ruso Rodríguez, Alario lifted the ball into the roof of the next from a tight angle, although he was only six feet from the goal line. It was a tidy finish, especially in the context and under such pressure.
After the match, Marcelo Gallardo spoke of how winning this match essentially keeps River’s hopes of the title alive, with Los Millonarios lying in seventh place on, six points behind Grupo A leaders Rosario Central. Independiente is currently in 11th place, two points behind River.
River faces Boca at home on Sunday, and will probably fancy its chances against a team whose next manager is yet to be named. Independiente is up against Colón in its tie on the 6th of March.