SAO PAULO, Jan 13, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – Palmeiras held on to reach the Copa
Libertadores final despite losing 2-0 to 10-man River Plate on Tuesday as the
Argentines were twice denied by controversial VAR decisions.
River dominated the semi-final second leg at a empty Allianz Parque
stadium in Sao Paulo, but goals from Robert Rojas, who was later dismissed,
and Rafael Borre were not enough to overturn their 3-0 home defeat last week
to the Brazilians, who progressed 3-2 on aggregate.
Palmeiras, though, had the video assistant referee to thank for chalking
off a second half goal from Gonzalo Montiel and then denying River a penalty.
They will face either compatriots Santos or River’s arch Buenos Aires
rivals Boca Juniors — who play their semi-final second leg on Wednesday
following last week’s 0-0 draw — in the January 30 final at Rio de Janeiro’s
River threw caution to the wind from the off but left space at the back
for Palmeiras to exploit.
Rony was played clean through on nine minutes by Gabriel Menino, but as he
tried to take the ball around Franco Armani the Argentine goalkeeper did
brilliantly to get a hand to it and save his team.
Home goalkeeper Weverton was by far the busier of the two, though, and
repeatedly kept River at bay.
He did brilliantly to get his fingertips to a speculative long range
effort from Chilean Paulo Diaz that was heading for the top corner.
But from the resulting corner, River took the lead as Paraguayan center-
back Rojas leapt like a salmon and powered a header into the top corner from
the penalty spot, leaving Weverton rooted to his line.
A minute before the break, though, River doubled their lead.
Uruguayan Nicolas De La Cruz, whose corner led to the opener, crossed from
the right and Colombian Borre somehow arrived unmarked inside the six yard
box to head home.
De La Cruz was at the heart of River’s attacking play and sent a second
half free-kick just wide before Weverton got down well to claim his daisy-
– VAR takes center stage –
Palmeiras were struggling to deal with crosses into the box and on 52
minutes they were seemingly undone again.
Fabrizio Angileri sent the ball over from the left and Montiel was free on
the edge of the six yard box to volley back across Weverton and in.
However, after a long VAR check, it was controversially deemed that Borre
was marginally offside earlier in the move and Palmeiras survived.
River’s tails were up, though, and Weverton made a reaction save to
prevent Luan diverting a cross from Montiel past his own goalkeeper, with De
La Cruz hitting the side netting from the follow up.
River’s hopes suffered a blow 17 minutes from time, though, when Rojas was
harshly shown a second yellow card and given his marching orders.
Just moments later, however, Alan Empereur was adjudged to have tripped
Matias Suarez in the area and Uruguayan referee Esteban Ostojich pointed to
the spot. Yet again VAR came to Palmeiras’ rescue.
River continued to dominate and from one corner Weverton saved an Enzo
Perez header before Borre lashed the rebound against the post and Matias Vina
headed a Perez follow up off the line.
The game finally ended after 13 minutes of overtime but not before one
more lengthy VAR check denied River a dramatic late penalty after Borre went
down under a Kuscevic challenge.