Monday, 1 October 2007

Late: River beat Botafogo to reach Copa Sudamericana Quarters

Last Thursday, Argentine giants River Plate overturned their first leg deficit to defeat Botafogo of Brazil 4-3 on aggregate, 4-2 on the night.

The scoreline itself may seem spectacular, but it only tells half the story of a completely compelling game, which wasn't decided until the 91st minute.

River went into the game knowing that if their opponents scored, they would have to beat them by two clear goals due to the away goals rule. This duly happened after ten minutes, when Lucio Flavio fired home from inside the box, after Federico Lussenhoff gave the ball away needlessly in the build up to the goal.

River rallied, and got their equaliser through Radamal Falcao's header on thirty-one minutes. Their task was seemingly made easier three minutes later, when Ze Roberto received a dubious red card for dangerous play, reducing the Brazilian side to ten men.

However, River couldn't make their numerical advantage count, and the odds were evened on fifty-seven minutes, as Lussenhoff received his second booking as was sent off to jeers from the River crowd, who were clearly not content with his performance. It got worse for River ten minutes later as Dodo exchanged passes with Joilson before firing emphatically past Juan Pablo Carrizo to put Botafogo 2-1 up.

With Botafogo increasingly dangerous on the counter attack, an impetuous foul by Oscar Ahumdada resulted in River being reduced to nine men, making their task of finding three more goals seem impossible. Some home supporters started to leave the ground at this point, but many stayed and continued to support the team in great voice.

They were rewarded handsomely for their faith with two goals in five minutes. A strike from outside the area by Falcao and a clever volleyed finish inside the box from Andres Rios leaving River just needing one more goal to progress.

River poured men forward in the remaining ten minutes, with even the goalkeeper Carrizo coming up for corners. This pressure finally told one minute into stoppage time, as Falcao rose to meet Ariel Ortega's cross with a powerful header that bulged the back of the net and sent El Monumental into raptures.

It truly was a remarkable comeback from River, and Falcao's hat-trick is sure to bring him cult status with the River fans for years to come. They will now progress to the quarter finals, where they will face the winners of the Defensor Sporting (Uru) versus Nacional (Ecu) tie, which is due to be played this coming week.

As for Botafogo, the circumstances around the defeat led to their coach Cucu resigning from his position immediately after the game. The club, who currently lie in seventh place in the Brazilian league, moved quickly to appoint a new coach, with former Figueirense boss Mario Sergio named as their new manager yesterday.

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