River Plate v Boca Juniors: The worst Libertadores semi-final records ahead of Superclasico clash

Oleh Tom Webber 1 Oktober 2019 16
River Plate v Boca Juniors: The worst Libertadores semi-final records ahead of Superclasico clash

River Plate entertain arch-rivals Boca Juniors in the first leg of their Copa Libertadores semi-final on Tuesday, but the defending champions have hardly set the tournament alight in 2019.

Marcelo Gallardo has already led River to two Libertadores titles - last year's coming after a Superclasico final against Boca - and is hoping to make them the first team to successfully defend their crown since a Boca side inspired by Juan Roman Riquelme in 2001.

However, Los Millonarios have won just three of their 10 matches en route to the final four – the joint-fewest of any semi-finalist to have taken part in the group stage.

With the help of Opta, we look at the teams that reached the penultimate round with the same amount of victories.

 

Cerro Porteno (1993)

After starting their campaign with back-to-back draws against Paraguayan rivals Olimpia and Newell's Old Boys, Cerro got off the mark with a 2-1 victory over River when Leonardo Astrada put through his own net. Another 2-1 triumph, this time against a Newell's side including Gerardo Martino and Mauricio Pochettino, helped send Cerro through top of their group, though their only other victory before the semi-finals came against Cobreloa in the last 16. They defeated Olimipia on penalties after a pair of draws in the quarter-finals but lost to eventual champions Sao Paulo 1-0 on aggregate in the final four.

Junior (1994)

In the heyday of Colombian football, Junior claimed group-stage wins over Cerro and Independiente Medellin, the former 3-2 after throwing away a two-goal lead in Barranquilla. Despite being reduced to 10 men after a red card for Alexis Mendoza, Junior scored twice in the last 15 minutes to earn a second straight last-16 draw against Colo Colo, who they beat on penalties. Carlos Valderrama notched as Junior booked their final-four spot with a 2-0 victory over Medellin, and although they beat Velez in the first leg of the semi-finals to take their tally of wins for the tournament to four, they were beaten in a shoot-out by the eventual champions.

Emelec (1995)

A single victory over fellow Ecuadorian side El Nacional got Emelec out of Group 4 behind a Palmeiras team boasting Rivaldo and Edmundo and Luiz Felipe Scolari's Gremio. Wins against Cerro in the last 16 and Sporting Cristal sent them into a semi-final clash with Gremio, who advanced 2-0 on aggregate and went on to win the title. It remains Emelec's best run in the competition.

Racing Club (1997)

Just one point from their first four Group 2 games left Racing in a precarious position, but they closed out the stage with 2-0 triumphs over El Nacional and Emelec. Two-time Copa America-winning coach Alfio Basile's side were consequently pitted against River in the last 16 and advanced on penalties after a pair of draws – Enzo Francescoli missing the crucial spot-kick for a Los Millonarios team that included Gallardo as a player. Racing beat Penarol 1-0 in the second leg of the quarter-finals – a game that saw third-minute red cards for Mauro Navas and Gonzalo de los Santos – and again needed a shoot-out to advance. Although they claimed a 3-2 first-leg victory over Cristal in the semis, they lost 6-4 on aggregate.

River Plate (2015)

River kicked off their campaign with a 2-0 loss at altitude against Bolivians San Jose and drew four straight games against UANL Tigres and Juan Aurich before beating San Jose at home. Juan Aurich falling to a 5-4 loss to Tigres in the final Group 6 match sent River through to the last 16 by the skin of their teeth. As the bottom seed they faced the tournament's best team from the group stage: Boca. They won the first leg at El Monumental 1-0 and advanced when the second leg was abandoned after a Boca fan targeted River players with a pepper spray-like substance as they emerged from the tunnel. Their third victory came in the second leg of the quarter-finals to get them past Cruzeiro 3-1 on aggregate and they added two further triumphs against Guarani and Tigres to clinch the title for the first time in 19 years. It remains the joint-fewest wins for a team that have played over seven games en route to glory, with LDU Quito also triumphing on just five occasions in their 2008 success.

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Tom Webber

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