Honours even as Boca, River battle to draw in Libertadores
Buenos Aires (AFP)
River Plate twice came from behind to snatch a 2-2 draw with fierce Argentinian rivals Boca Juniors in the first leg of their weather-delayed 'Superclasico' Copa Libertadores final in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
A last-minute save from River goalkeeper Franco Armani to deny Boca striker Dario Benedetto left the South American football showpiece finely balanced heading into the second leg on November 24.
Boca twice took the the lead with goals from Ramon Abila and Benedetto only to see River fight back through strikes from Lucas Pratto and an own goal from Carlos Izquierdoz.
The game had been shifted to Sunday after torrential rain forced a postponement on Saturday.
The eagerly anticipated final marked the first time in the 58-year history of the Copa Libertadores that River and Boca, who have one of the most ferocious rivalries in the world of club football, had met in the final.
With Boca's famed La Bombonera stadium rocking with excitement, however, it was River who were the quicker to settle.
The visitors threatened to take an early lead when Gonzalo Martinez's curling free-kick was clawed wide for a corner by Boca goalkeeper Agustin Rossi.
River almost scored from the ensuing corner, but Lucas Martinez directed his header wide wastefully to leave La Bombonera breathing a collective sigh of relief.
River continued to enjoy the better of the early chances, and again threatened the Boca goal after 16 minutes when Rafael Borre's glancing header was brilliantly pushed around the post by Rossi for a corner.
However after soaking up the early River pressure, it was Boca who made the breakthrough on 34 minutes with their first shot of the game.
Veteran striker Abila forced a desperate save from Armani with a fierce right-foot strike, but the River goalkeeper's block fell back into the path of the Boca forward who smashed an angled left-foot shot through a gap at the near post.
Abila's opener had the massed yanks of blue-and-yellow clad fans bouncing in delirium but their joy was short-lived as River snatched an equaliser immediately.
Gonzalo Martinez threaded a perfectly weighted pass through to Pratto, and the Argentinian international drilled a low finish across the diving Rossi which crept in off the far post.
River almost took the lead four minutes later when Gonzalo Martinez's shot cannoned off Rossi's legs in the Boca goal.
Instead though it was Boca who regained the lead on the stroke of half-time, with Benedetto glancing in Sebastian Villa's floated free-kick.
River however fought back gamely in the second half and equalised in the 61st minute when Gonzalo Martinez's teasing free-kick caused panic in the Boca area.
Izquierdoz, who had been marking Pratto, leapt to clear but succeeded only in steering the ball past Rossi in the Boca goal for 2-2.
With time running out, Boca then missed a glorious chance when Carlos Tevez broke into the area.
The veteran striker calmly squared to the unmarked Benedetto eight yards from goal, but the forward shot straight at Armani who saved to preserve River's draw.
© 2018 AFP