Arsenal went out from the first minute looking for a 0-0 result. With 10 men defending every ball played, things were made difficult for River, who were not able to reach Cuenca's goal too often in the first 45 minutes. In the second half, "la Banda" improved a bit and deserved atleast one goal. Still, Mario Cuenca's espectacular night caused the match to finish the same way it had started. Arsenal then won 4-2 in penalties, leaving River with another trophy-less season.
The Player Review -
Juan Pablo Carrizo: Our goalkeeper did not have much to do throughout the entire 90 minutes played. In the penalty shootout, though, he resurrected River by stopping Andrizzi's shot and partially tieing it. Unfortunately this didn't have too much importance later, since we lost, but Carrizo still did an overall good job.
Paulo Ferrari: Our captain played a decent game, but he didn't attack as much as expected. Nothing amazing, but no errors nonetheless. Converted his penalty shot. His overall good performacnes this season have brought Villarreal to be interested in incorporating him in December.
Eduardo Tuzzio: He continued playing despite what seemed to be a minor injury in the first half. He did well, though he almost gave Arsenal a goal when he kicked the air rather than the ball in one play.
Cristian Nasuti: "El Colorado" was once again solid in defense and tried to score with his killer headers. He was one of the players who cared most about the match and once again left a good image as a center-back.
Leonardo Ponzio: Personally, I think he was one of the best players on the field. Ever since the day he was included on the starting team vs. Boca, the ex-Zaragoza player has delivered some exceptional performances. He has been defending very well and attacks when needed. Ponzio has managed to transform himself from a substitute to a very important first-team player. With no known interested teams in him, he could be a vital part of the team next semester.
Fernando Belluschi: Missed an extremely clear chance at the tenth minute that would have left us previewing the final vs. America rather than talking about our elimination. Later on in the match he had some great shots, including a fantastic one in the dieing minutes of the game, but Cuenca did not let the midfielder celebrate. He was one of the players that missed his shot in the penalty shoot-out.
Oscar Ahumada: A very poor performance by the #5. He didn't do much (if anything) throughout the whole game. To top it off, he was expelled in the second half.
Rene Lima: In my opinion, the best player on the field last night (behind Cuenca -Arsenal's goalkeeper). He recuperated, distributed, gave the great assist to Belluschi (10th minute), and had a potential shot. Unfortunately, he was not able to continue his positive performance after the match, and took an extremely horrible penalty which left us out of the tournament.
Diego Buonanotte: Tried more than most of the players out there. He had a few sparks here and there, but more than often seemed to hold on to the ball for way too long.
Ariel Ortega: "El Burrito" was not able to do much. He did well while on the field, but was injured early on in the game by Andres San Martin (it just happened to be an ex-River player!). No word on how long he will be out for (not like it matters much now).
Andres Rios: The youngster did not receive the ball much and was not able to mark his prescence. His substitute was able to do much more (see below).
The Substitutes -
Mauro Rosales: The ex-Ajax player entered sooner than expected to replace the injured Ortega. He didn't do as much as we expected, but did contribute every now and then. He should have taken the fourth penalty instead of Lima.
Rolando Zarate: It was a surprise to see him enter the field, but he ended up being one of the best players present. He gave a few good crosses and had some good shots. He was one of the two players who converted his penalty shot (Ferrari being the other).
Augusto Fernandez: Augusto was a substitute do to not being completely fit after his injury. He came in towards the end of the match but did not have time to do much. Why he wasn't one of the penalty takers is beyond me.
The Copa Sudamericana 2007 is now a thing of the past for River Plate. Only hypothetical questions remain: What if Colombia would have shown some respect by letting Falcao play? What if Ariel Ortega had not gotten injured during the start of the match? What if Augusto Fernandez/Rosales/Ponzio had taken our fourth penalty shot instead of Rene Lima? What if the pitch was in good conditions? There is no correct answer to any of these questions, yet they keep on appearing in my mind.
Highlights of the match: