River Plate scrape into Club World final with nervy win

Reuters , Wednesday 16 Dec 2015

Sanfrecce Hiroshima forward Douglas (R) fights for the ball with River Plate defender Leonel Vangioni (C) and defender Jonatan Maidana (L) during their Club World Cup semi-final football match in Osaka on December 16, 2015. (AFP)

South American champions River Plate scraped into the Club World Cup final with a nervous 1-0 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima thanks largely to goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero on Wednesday.

Lucas Alario headed the only goal in the 72nd minute when Hiroshima goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi failed to clear a free kick and Alario headed in the loose ball.

But Barovero was the real hero as he kept the Argentine side in the game in the first half with a flurry of saves.

River, backed by 15,000 fans, who had made the marathon journey from Argentina, will face either European champions Barcelona or Asia's Guangzhou Evergrande, who meet on Thursday, in Sunday's final.

Hiroshima, who qualified for the competition thanks to a rule which awards a place to the champions of the host nation, had knocked out Auckland City from Oceania and African champions TP Mazembe in a surprise run.

River, whose supporters outnumbered the home fans by at least four to one, had plenty of early possession but struggled to create openings and looked very vulnerable to Hiroshima's quick counter attacks led by Brazilian striker Douglas.

Barovero was called upon for the first time when he blocked Yusuke Minagawa's shot after the Hiroshima forward got clear of the River defence.

Minagawa, always a threat, failed to connect with a Douglas pass from another counter attack and then saw an effort brilliantly turned away by Barovero after getting free of two defenders.

In between, Barovero also did well to tip over Yusuke Chajima's effort after he cut inside a defender to make space for the shot.

River had their first real chance just after halftime but Rodrigo Mora skied his shot over from close range.

The Argentines did not really look like scoring until Alario popped up with the inner late in the second hlaf.

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