Gremio vs River: Copa Libertadores 2018: as it happened, goals, match report
River Plate eliminated the holders Gremio in dramatic fashion as a VAR awarded penalty was executed by Pity Martinez to see the Argentine side through to the final.
Andrés Cunha is a brave man. He is also the match official who awarded River Plate a 95th minute penalty away to holders Gremio with the Argentine side needing one goal to secure a place in the 2018 Copa Libertadores final.
The conspiracy theories will run and run after the late drama at the Arena do Gremio as the Uruguayan official was called by the VAR team to revisit an incident when the ball ricocheted off a Gremio defender for a corner in time added on. After spending considerable time reviewing the replay, the match official pointed to the spot and chaos ensued. Gremio players were incensed, none more than Bressan who eventually received a red card for his actions. In the aftermath, Pity Martinez stepped up, slotted the ball home and his goal saw River seal a place in the 2018 final.
Ahead of the final drama, Gremio were outplayed for the majority of the game by a focused River Plate who probed and forged for a breakthrough. It was the home side who opened the scoring with Leonardo seeing a 36th minute shot deflected to put the Brazilian outfit in a commanding position.
River however, failed to throw in the towel but the outcome of the evening could have been so different had Everton taken his chance when set through on a one-v-one with River keeper Armani. Gallardo's side were rewarded for their persistence in the 82nd minute as Rafael Santos Borré headed the "Millionarios" level before the late VAR penalty drama ensued that sees the Buenos Aires outfit the first finalists with Palmeiras or city rivals Boca Juniors their potential opponents
Gremio-River: Copa Libertadores 2018: as it happened
Gremio-River Plate: preview
Title holders Grêmio hold a trump hand in this decisive second leg against River Plate at Arena do Grêmio. The Brazilians hold a one-goal advantage from last week's first leg in Buenos Aires, thanks to Michel's solitary strike plus they will be playing in front of a home crowd. But it's only a slender advantage and anything can happen between two clubs who hold three titles between them. The winners will meet the team that emerges from the other semi-final - another Brazilian-Argentinean affair, between Palmeiras and Boca Juniors.
Walter Kannemann was solid in the first leg and the defender's absence is a blow for the home side. Everton will be back having trained with the squad ahead of the game but striker Luan is expected to miss the semi final, having not recovered totally from injury.
River will not have head coach Gallardo on the bench in Porto Alegre tonight with the Argentine coach being hit with a late COMNEBOL ban. The positive news for the head coach is a full strength squad to select from and knowing that 4,000 River fans (of the 7,000 who have made the trip to Brazil) will be pushing their side for a place in the 2018 Libertadores final.