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95th-Minute Winner Sends River Plate To Libertadores Final And Leads To Absolute Scenes

After losing the home leg of its Copa Libertadores semifinal against Grêmio 1-0 in Buenos Aires, River Plate pulled off a shocking 2-1 reverse scoreline in Porto Alegre on Tuesday night to advance to the final of South America’s premier club competition on away goals. For River Plate, the late dramatics were pure delirium; for Grêmio, it was the cruelest of defeats.

Everything started brilliantly for the Brazilian club. In the 36th minute, Léo Gomes gave his side a 2-0 aggregate lead with a nicely taken half-volley from outside the 18. Arena do Grêmio lost it. 

And Grêmio would later have a chance to bury the game with River Plate chasing its first, however, this is one they’ll rue. 

The advantage would last deep into the match, but the seemingly unassailable margin was finally halved in the 82nd minute by Colombian forward Rafael Santos Borré. 

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The header wasn’t without its bit of controversy. 

Los Millonarios now needed just one more to advance, and the opportunity arrived in the 89th minute. The call wasn’t made on the pitch, but the VAR told the ref to take another look at this handball, and the ref duly pointed to the spot. Bressan was sent off for his second yellow. 

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Pity Martinez — who will reportedly join Atlanta United in January — stepped up to bury the spot kick, which didn’t actually go down until the 95th minute. 

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Ultimately, we would see 14 minutes of stoppage time before the final whistle. You can probably imagine how the home side treated the ref after that. 

As wild as these scenes were, we might be turning it up to 11 on Nov. 7 and Nov. 28 (the dates of the final’s two legs). In the other semi, Boca Juniors is taking a two-goal lead to Palmeiras’ Allianz Parque in Sao Paulo on Wednesday night.

Should the final of the Libertadores turn into a Superclásico between Boca and River, well, I’m going to batten down the hatches immediately. 

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