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River reaches Copa Libertadores final despite loss at Boca

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 22, 2019

River Plate players celebrate qualifying for the final, at the end of their 0-1 loss to Boca Juniors in a Copa Libertadores semifinal second leg soccer match at La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. River won 2-1 on aggregate and qualified to the final. (Natacha Pisarenko / Associated Press)
River Plate players celebrate qualifying for the final, at the end of their 0-1 loss to Boca Juniors in a Copa Libertadores semifinal second leg soccer match at La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. River won 2-1 on aggregate and qualified to the final. (Natacha Pisarenko / Associated Press)
By Debora Rey Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Argentinian powerhouse River Plate will defend its Copa Libertadores title after eliminating archrivals Boca Juniors in the semifinals.

River Plate lost to Boca 1-0 on Tuesday at La Bombonera stadium, but advanced thanks to a 2-0 win in the first leg at the Monumental de Nunez earlier in October.

Venezuelan Jan Hurtado scored the only goal of the match at 80 minutes after a free kick from the right wing. It was one of the few opportunities Boca had in the entire match.

River seeks its fifth South American crown in the single-match final in Santiago on Nov. 23.

Street protests against transportation rises have rocked the Chilean capital, but South America’s soccer body CONMEBOL said it does not have an alternate plan for the Copa Libertadores decider.

River’s opponent will be known on Wednesday, when Brazil’s Flamengo hosts Gremio at the historic Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The first leg between the two Brazilian sides ended 1-1.

Gremio was a biter rival River in last year’s semifinals, in which the Argentinians only advanced with a goal from the spot at 86 minutes in their 2-1 away win in Porto Alegre.

Tuesday’s result is another setback for Boca against its archrivals. River also won last year’s final against them in Madrid.

River won four international playoffs against its rival since coach Marcelo Gallardo took the job in 2014.

“We are a team that knows how to play in adverse conditions. Today we could not develop our own conditions and we had to fight,” Gallardo said. “To reach a Copa Libertadores final you have to know how to suffer.”

Gallardo won Copa Libertadores titles with River as a player in 1996 and as coach in 2015 and 2018.

Boca coach Gustavo Alfaro believes his team deserved to take River to a penalty shootout. “We searched for our goal at all times, we took risks. Now we feel this result was unfair,” he said.

The only incident that caused some tension in the match at La Bombonera was a 15-minute delay because of paper thrown by Boca fans onto the pitch. Before the second leg of the 2018 final, River fans threw rocks at a bus with the players of their archrivals and hurt several of them hours before the match. The decider was transferred to Madrid because of the attack.

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