BUENOS AIRES - River Plate are 90 minutes
away from being relegated for the first time after the record 33
times Argentine champions lost 2-0 at modest Belgrano in the
first leg of a play-off on Wednesday.
Goals either side of half-time from midfielder Cesar
Mansanelli and striker Cesar Pereyra gave the second-tier
Nacional B side the victory that put them on the verge of a
place in the top flight.
River, whose last title was in the second half of the
2007/08 season, find themselves in the dire situation as a
result of their poor three-season points average that determines
relegation in Argentina.
The match was interrupted for 20 minutes after River went
two goals behind early in the second half. Some of their fans
broke a hole in the perimeter fence and stormed onto the pitch
in the city of Cordoba.
The fans remonstrated with their own team's players,
demanding more effort from them, before being ejected and order
was gradually restored.
Belgrano went ahead with a penalty converted by Mansanelli
midway through the first half after defender Adalberto Roman
handled at a corner.
They added the second five minutes into the second half when
defender Luciano Lollo glanced Mansanelli's corner towards the
far post where Pereyra turned it past goalkeeper Juan Pablo
Carrizo into the net.
Belgrano midfielder Franco Vazquez had a chance to bury
River near the end when defender Jonatan Maidana slipped and
lost possession but he hurried his shot over from the edge of
River had dropped experienced strikers Mariano Pavone and
Leandro Caruso in favour of youth, and while 37-year-old Matias
Almeyda gave his all in the midfield holding position his lack
of pace was often exposed.
River had several chances from free-kicks, corners and long
range shots but Belgrano goalkeeper Juan Carlos Olave was equal
to them all, highlighted by a superb stop from Carlos Arano's
They lost their shape, and their discipline, as the match
wore. Captain Almeyda, Roman and defender Paulo Ferrari were
booked and will miss the second leg through suspension having
accumulated five yellow cards.
River need to get back on level terms in the return leg at
the Monumental on Sunday and will survive with an aggregate draw
as the result favours first division sides.
Earlier on Wednesday, Gimnasia beat nine-man Huracan 2-0 in
a one-off match at the Bombonera to qualify for the other
play-off, while condemning the losers to relegation.
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