River Plate loses on penalties to Al Ain at Club World Cup
AL AIN CITY, United Arab Emirates (AP) — South American champion River Plate was upset by Al Ain FC in the Club World Cup on Tuesday, losing in a penalty shootout after the semifinal finished 2-2 following extra time.
Al Ain’s players converted all five penalty kicks, before goalkeeper Khalid Eisa saved Enzo Perez’s fifth shot for River to seal a 5-4 victory in the shootout.
River endured the humbling loss to the team from the United Arab Emirates less than two weeks after thrilling its fans with a memorable win over fierce Argentine rival Boca Juniors in the final of the Copa Libertadores.
River coach Marcelo Gallardo said his team lacked the focus it needed for the game, especially coming after its huge victory over Boca.
“The issue was our level of concentration against a rival that on paper was inferior,” Gallardo said. “It was a dangerous match for us and when we let down our guard they were able to tie. (But) the party must continue because what we achieved was historic.”
River entered the match heavily favored, but it quickly found it faced a more than worthy opponent that attacked effectively and got an inspired performance by Eisa in goal.
Marcus Berg put Al Ain ahead in the third minute when he grazed a corner kick near the post and sent it between the legs of goalkeeper Franco Armani.
Santos Borre pulled River Plate level in the 11th after redirecting a shot into the net following a pair of saves by Eisa.
Borre added a second goal just five minutes later by scoring from a tight angle after a quick attack.
Al Ain pressed for a second goal, coming close before halftime when a video review disallowed a goal by Hussein El Shahat for offsides.
The equalizer came in the 51st when Brazilian forward Caio exchanged passes with Tsukasa Shiotani before cutting back inside a defender and shooting past Armani.
Borre went close to putting River back in front, only for Eisa to make an excellent one-handed save to turn back his powerful header.
Gonzalo Martinez had an opportunity to put River back in front from the penalty spot after Mohamed Ahmad fouled Milton Casco in the area. But Martinez hit the 68th-minute spot kick against the crossbar.
River was outplayed the rest of the way and only a save by Armani in extra time sent the match to penalties.
The final is on Saturday.