Third place in the 2017 Florida Cup FC Playoff stage was up for grabs this afternoon, with River Plate and Vasco da Gama squaring off in the first match of Saturday’s final day double-header. Vasco da Gama, with two River Plate goals waived off in the second half, needed only a free kick goal in the 74th minute to seal a 1-0 victory and the elusive third-place trophy at Bright House Networks Stadium.
The referees were a fairly central talking point throughout the match, with the assistant ref waiving off a pair of River Plate goals in the second half — first in the 55th on Lucas Alario’s clean finish from close range, then eight minutes later when Rodrigo Mora’s header found the net, but was declared offside.
The central referee, Vincent Apple-Chiarella, was in the spotlight 10 minutes later, in the 73rd, when he awarded the foul to Andrézinho on what looked to be a clean tackle by Martinez Quarta. Vasco da Gama’s Nenê scored on the ensuing free kick from about 23 yards out for the lone goal of the match.
Apple-Chiarella was again called into question by River Plate when he ignored what appeared to be an obvious handball by Vasco da Gama in the box, which would have set the Argentinian side up with a penalty and a chance to equalize.
River Plate came out gunning in the early part of the game, holding the better half of possession, but struggled to find the final piece of the puzzle in the final third. Two chances, in the 25th and 27th minutes, nearly put the Argentines ahead, but both were stopped by Vasco goalkeeper Martín Silva.
Vasco da Gama had a good opportunity come their way in the 42nd minute when Thalles beat goalkeeper Augusto Batalla to a high-bouncing ball near the corner of the box, chipping the ball over the Batalla and off of the crossbar. Thalles was set up again in the 51st minute, but his weak effort on goal this time around was knocked away by the Batalla.
River Plate, throughout the match, found themselves with the better of chances, never could find the bit of luck to push the ball across the goal line. In the end, a questionable call by the referee was all that was needed to do them in.
Corinthians and Sao Paulo will follow this match in the Florida Cup Final, also at Bright House Networks Stadium.