River Plate frustrated Tigres UANL, holding the Liga MX club to a 0-0 home draw in the Copa Libertadores final’s first leg, but the Argentines will be without their coach and a player next week.
A first-half yellow card to Gabriel Mercado means the fullback will be suspended for the second leg in Buenos Aires on Aug. 5, while River coach Marcelo Gallardo will watch the game from the stands after being sent off in Mexico on Wednesday.
Despite those two blows, River should be fairly pleased with their performance at the Estadio Universitario de Nuevo Leon, as it weathered the early storm from Tigres and then kept the match under control â for the most part â in the second half.
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The hosts had a big chance to win the game with six minutes left but winger Jurgen Damm was unable to get around River goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero and then failed to pick out a teammate with his cutback in a perfect illustration of Tigres’ wastefulness.
Tigres dominated the opening 20 minutes of Wednesday’s game but were unable to capitalize. River almost brought about its own undoing in the 18th minute when Leonel Vangioni deflected a cross onto the bar of his own goal, and soon after, Rafael Sobis sent a powerful header straight at Barovero.
The hosts suffered a blow four minutes before the break when defender Hugo Ayala limped off with an ankle injury and was replaced by Jose Rivas. Moments later, Mercado received his yellow card for stamping on Andre-Pierre Gignac, which rules the 28-year-old out of next week’s second leg because of an accumulation of cards.
At the interval, Gallardo brought on Gonzalo Martinez and Nicolas Bertolo, and the substitutes gave the visitors some much-needed energy. Rivas pulled off an impressive sliding tackle to deny Bertolo in the area in the 51st minute, although the latter believed he deserved a penalty.
Gallardo was banished from the bench 22 minutes later, seemingly for yelling at the fourth official, before Juninho forced Barovero into a low save with a long-range free kick. Tigres controlled possession for the majority of the last 20 minutes but apart from Damm’s one-on-one opportunity against Barovero â which he wasted â Ricardo Ferretti’s men had few chances to score, which may cost them a maiden Copa Libertadores title.
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