River Plate win with midfielder in goal

River Plate were forced to play midfielder Enzo Perez in goal and have no substitutes on the bench for a Copa Libertadores match – but still emerged with a 2-1 victory.

River’s squad was reduced to 11 available players for Wednesday’s game against Colombia’s Independiente Santa Fe after 20 players tested positive for Covid-19, with others ruled out due to injury.

Four goalkeepers were among those affected but a request to register their fifth and sixth-choice goalkeepers was rejected by South America’s governing body, CONMEBOL.

Veteran midfielder Perez started in goal behind an inexperienced team but was rarely troubled by Independiente, who have yet to win in this year’s Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the Champions League.

“He was very brave to take the position. It was not easy,” said Marcelo Gallardo, River Plate’s head coach.

“I have to highlight that because it’s not easy to play in a position that you know nothing about.

“It was a joint decision. I needed to have him feeling confident because the responsibility would be totally mine, of course.”

River Plate head coach Marcelo Gallardo celebrates with Enzo Perez after their victory over Independiente Santa Fe
River Plate head coach Marcelo Gallardo celebrates with Perez after their victory over Independiente

Fabrizio Angileri put River ahead after just three minutes and Julian Alvarez doubled their lead three minutes later.

Kelvin Osorio spoiled Perez’s bid for a clean sheet when he scored after 73 minutes for Independiente, who introduced 15-year-old Hollman McCormick late on.

River held on to secure the win and go top in Group D with nine points from five games.

“What place happened today will be not in my history, but in the history of our club, in the history of River Plate, in the history of our institution,” said Gallardo.

“I believe that we have never had a situation like this one today. I am sure this will be remembered and bookmarked. It was not normal to play under the conditions that we did.”

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