Relieved River Plate reach final of Club World Cup
South American champions make hard work of overcoming Sanfreece Hiroshima 1-0 in Osaka
South American champions River Plate overcame their anxiety to reach the Club World Cup final with a jittery 1-0 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima yesterday, keeping alive the dream of a meeting with Barcelona.
River did not really look like scoring until Hiroshima goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi failed to clear Leonardo Ponzio’s free kick and Lucas Alario headed home the loose ball in the 72nd minute.
But goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero was the real hero as he kept the Argentine side in the game with a flurry of first-half saves.
River, backed by 15,000 fans who made the marathon trip in the hope of seeing their side meet Barcelona in the final, must now rely on the European champions to avoid a shock defeat against Asian counterparts Guangzhou Evergrande today.
The River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo was a relieved man after the game.
“We needed a lot of patience and intelligence and it was decided on the small details,” he said. “It was not easy to carry this huge responsibility but we didn’t allow it to make us lose our heads.”
“There were 10 minutes in the first half when we lost our organisation and they could have caused us a lot of damage.”
River, whose supporters outnumbered the home fans by at least four to one, had plenty of early possession but struggled to create openings and looked very vulnerable to Hiroshima’s quick counterattacks led by Brazilian striker Douglas.
The Argentines completely lost their shape midway through the first half but Baravero, one of several journeymen professionals in their team, came to the rescue.
The 31-year-old, who has never played for Argentina, did well to block Yusuke Minagawa’s shot after the Hiroshima forward got clear of the River defence.
Minagawa, always a threat, failed to connect with a Douglas pass from another counterattack and then saw an effort brilliantly turned away by Barovero after getting free of two defenders.
The Argentines did not really look like scoring until Alario popped up with the winner late in the match.