River Plate got an early goal from Lucas Alario and held on for a hard-fought 1-0 win over Millonarios FC at Bright House Networks Stadium at the University of Central Florida. A pulsing announced crowd of 6,500 looked on as the clubs from Argentina and Colombia, respectively, did battle in what was technically the second game of the Florida Cup’s FC Playoff stage – although “Game A” kicked off at the same time at Central Broward Stadium.
Alario opened the scoring for the Argentinian side just three minutes into the match. Alario stole a ball in the attacking half near midfield, nutmegged defender Pedro Franco to start the play and took a return pass as he sped past the Millonarios defense and slipped a gorgeous curling shot around Nicolas Vikonis just inside the far post.
The Colombian side nearly answered less than two minutes later. Cristian Arango put his entire foot, leg, and body into a swerving shot from about 25 yards out that had goalkeeper Augusto Batalla scrambling to his left but the shot flew just wide of the goal frame.
Millonarios continued to press the attack over the next 20 minutes, generating several chances but failing to find an equalizer. The Colombians earned a free kick to the right of the area but Elisar Quinones’ low effort was deflected out for a corner at the 12-minute mark. Gabriel Eduardo Diaz got his foot onto a cross off the ensuing scramble but his right footed stab went over the crossbar.
Lucas Martinez Quarta committed a foul to give Millonarios a free kick in a good spot in the 14th minute. Quinones fired his effort on target but Batalla made a diving save. Three minutes later, former MLS player Dairon Asprilla one-timed a cross into the box over Batalla’s goal.
River plate tried to get the attack going again by taking advantage of the outside channels, sending in a pair of dangerous crosses into the box. But a Millonarios defender made a vital interception on the first and the second was just a tad off its intended target.
Gonzalo Martinez had a good chance in the 31st minute for River Plate but didn’t get enough on his shot and it was an easy save for Vikonis. Millonarios nearly got an opportunity to equalize in the 45th minute when Arango went down in the box. Despite shots for penalty – and it did look like a foul in the box on first look – referee Esteban Rosano awarded a corner. Replays showed it was about a 50/50 challenge and could have drawn a spot kick. Instead, nothing came from the corner and River Plate took its 1-0 advantage into the break.
Both sides substituted liberally after halftime and it affected the flow of the game. The match yielded fewer scoring chances in a choppy – and sometimes chippy – second period.
Oscar Barreto had a good opportunity to equalize for Millonarios in the 64th minute but his header sailed wide and the flag came up anyway. A replay seemed to indicate Barreto was not the player in the offside position but the chance went wanting anyway. River Plate had an opportunity to score an insurance goal just five minutes later on a 3-on-2 break but defender Felipe Banguero stepped in front of a pass at the last second and snuffed out the danger.
Sebastián Driussi shot just wide for River Plate in the 70th minute. River Plate again tried to put the match away in the 81st minute when Rodrigo Mora’s free kick from just above the penalty area was saved by Millonarios substitute goalkeeper Sanchez. The keeper was again forced into a save when Tomás Andrade sent him diving to make a stop in the 86th minute.
That was about all the action as Millonarios got a few set pieces from distance and a corner but could do nothing with them.
Vasco da Gama 2, Barcelona SC 1
In the other preliminary FC Playoff match Brazilian side Vasco da Gama defeated Ecuador’s Barcelona SC 2-1 at Central Broward Stadium. Rodrigo da Costa headed home the late game winner in the 83rd minute to snap a 1-1 deadlock. Both of the previous goals came in the game’s first half.
The Ecuadorian side drew first blood when midfielder Washington Vera found the net in the 22nd minute. Nene scored on a penalty kick to equalize in the 29th minute.
River Plate will advance to face Sao Paulo on Thursday at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, while Vasco da Gama will square off against Corinthians at UCF Wednesday at 7 p.m. Millonarios will face Barcelona SC on Wednesday night at Bright House Networks Stadium on the UCF campus in the consolation match at 4:30 p.m.