River Plate came from behind twice to draw 2-2 against rivals Boca Juniors in a fast and furious Copa Libertadores final first leg at La Bombonera.
Ramon Abila opened the scoring in the 34th minute, perhaps against the run of play after a good start from River Plate. But the away side levelled things up just seconds later when Lucas Pratto was released in behind and found the far corner of the net.
Dario Benedetto was an early sub for the home side following an injury to Cristian Pavon and he made the difference right at the end of a first half, flicking a header past Franco Armani to restore the lead for the home team.
Leonardo Jara (Boca Juniors) - Gonzalo Martinez (River Plate)
Image credit: Getty Images
Boca Juniors’ lead only lasted until the hour-mark, with Carlos Izquierdoz heading a free-kick into his own net. Benedetto had the chance to win it for the hosts in stoppage time, but his shot from a one-on-one situation was saved by Armani.
The second leg takes place at El Monumental on November 24.
TALKING POINT - Who has the advantage ahead of the second leg?
There was no doubt that River Plate were the favourites before kick off, and on the balance of play they were the better of the two teams. But they didn’t have everything their own way at La Bombonera, with Boca Juniors showing a drive and determination that saw them twice take the lead.
Image credit: Reuters
So who holds the advantage ahead of the second leg on November 24th? Logic suggests River Plate, but logic didn’t really apply to this match.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Dario Benedetto (Boca Juniors)
His performance might well be remembered for the missed opportunity to win the game in stoppage time, but Benedetto gave Boca Juniors a threat that they lacked before he was introduced off the bench in the first half. This was a triumphant return from injury for the forward, even if he will rue the save made by Armani right at the death.
8’ Should have scored! That's a golden opportunity for River Plate! Quarta was completely free about eight yards out, but he managed to send his header wide of the post from the corner.
15’ What a save! Rossi keeps the scoreline level! The cross into the box was a good one and Borre's header looked destined for the back of the net. But he pulls off the diving save!
22’ Pavon down! Uh oh. This could be a problem for Boca Juniors. Pavon is down on the ground and is holding his hamstring. He's back on his feet, but will he be able to play the whole game?
27’ Pavon off! Indeed, there's the change and Pavon comes off. He looks on the brink of tears. He could be out of the second leg with a hamstring injury.
34’ GOAL! Boca Juniors 1-0 River Plate: River have been the better side, but it's Boca who have taken the lead! Armani made the first save from Villa, but the ball fell back to Villa and he squeezes home the finish at the near post! What scenes! Incredible!
35’ GOAL! Boca Juniors 1-1 River Plate: Sensational! Boca Juniors were still celebrating the opening goal and now River Plate have levelled things! Pratto was played through and he found the far corner of Rossi's net with a low finish! What drama!
42’ Borre should score! The River Plate forward is played clean through on the Boca Juniors goal, but he goes for the outside of the boot finish and sends it wide of the far post. What a chance!
Boca Juniors - River Plate / Copa Libertadores 2018
Image credit: Getty Images
45’ GOAL! Boca Juniors 2-1 River Plate: It's the substitute who has put the home side back in front! Benedetto wasn't even facing the goal, but he knew where it was and managed to find the back of the net with a flicked header from a free-kick!
60’ What a miss! That should have been a third goal for Boca Juniors! The cross was played to the back post, but Izquierdoz couldn't find the back of the net! What an opportunity!
61’ GOAL! Boca Juniors 2-2 River Plate: It's another equaliser for River Plate! The free-kick delivery into the Boca box caused mayhem, and under pressure from Pratto it's Izquierdoz who flicks a header into his own net! Poor defending from the home side!
90’ That was the chance! What a miss! That was the chance for Boca to claim the win to take into the second leg! Tevez played through Benedetto, who was clean through... but Armani makes the save!
Dario Benedetto has scored with his last four shots on target in the 2018 Copa Libertadores.
The three goals in the first half was the most in any first half of a Copa Libertadores final first leg since 2008.