River Plate 0-3 Palmeiras: Brazilian outfit close in on final after stunning first-leg win

By Sports Desk January 05, 2021

Palmeiras closed in on their first Copa Libertadores final appearance since 2000 after a stunning 3-0 win over River Plate on Tuesday.

The Brazilian outfit produced an emphatic display in the first leg of the semi-final in Argentina.

Rony opened the scoring and Luiz Adriano doubled the lead early in the second half, with Matias Vina sealing the win after Jorge Carrascal was sent off for River.

River, finalists in the previous two editions of the Libertadores, fell behind in the 27th minute after a huge error.

Franco Armani dealt poorly with a cross, his clearance with his feet falling to Rony, whose volley beat the River goalkeeper via a slight deflection.

Palmeiras – who had another effort ruled out for offside in the first half – doubled their lead shortly after the break.

Luiz Adriano easily turned Robert Rojas after a pass from Danilo before producing a fine composed finish past Armani.

Making matters worse for River, Carrascal was sent off for a rash challenge on Gabriel Menino on the hour-mark.

And the hosts were punished almost immediately, Vina heading in a Gustavo Scarpa set-piece to make it 3-0.

Palmeiras went close to adding a fourth late on, but River have a huge mountain to climb in the second leg in Sao Paulo on January 12.

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  • Blue cards and sin bin trials set for further discussion by football’s lawmakers Blue cards and sin bin trials set for further discussion by football’s lawmakers

    Sin bin trials featuring blue cards will be the subject of further discussion by the game’s lawmakers on Friday and Saturday.

    The sin bin protocols, which would involve players being dismissed for 10 minutes for dissent and tactical fouls, had been signed off by the directors of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and were ready for publication on February 9, at which point competitions would have been able to apply to conduct a trial.

    However, the plug was pulled on publication that morning following media reports about blue cards the previous day.

    FIFA issued a statement on the evening of February 8 saying the reports concerning a blue card at elite levels of football were “incorrect and premature”.

    “Any such trials, if implemented, should be limited to testing in a responsible manner at lower levels, a position that FIFA intends to reiterate when this agenda item is discussed at the IFAB AGM on March 2,” the statement concluded.

    Sin bins have already been tested successfully in grassroots and youth football, but the PA news agency understands the intention of the protocols which were pulled at the last minute had been to test them at much higher levels, with the only exception being senior national team competitions and the highest domestic league in any country, where a team had the ability to qualify for a continental competition.

    The idea had been that the protocols could be introduced to the very top level once refined. All players on the pitch, including goalkeepers, could be sent to the sin bin under the original protocol, PA understands, but substitutes and coaching staff could not be.

    Fouls such as the cynical tug by Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini on England’s Bukayo Saka in the Euro 2020 final was set to be a sin bin offence within one of the protocols, PA understands.

    FIFA’s statement last month contrasted with comments from the chairman of its referees committee Pierluigi Collina at the IFAB annual business meeting last November.

    The Italian said at the time: “The trial was very successful in a grassroots competition. Now we are talking of a higher level, very probably professional or even high professional football.

    “We need to draft something that works or is worthy for top football.”

    The Football Association, one of the five bodies which makes up the IFAB, was understood to have been interested in running a trial in the men’s and women’s FA Cups in the future.

    It is not clear whether the sin bin trial protocols will be published in the same format planned on February 9 following Saturday’s annual general meeting at Loch Lomond, but pitched at lower-level competitions than originally intended, or whether the protocols themselves will be reworked and publication delayed beyond this weekend.

    A first meeting is due to take place on Friday evening ahead of the AGM itself on Saturday morning.

    The introduction of sin bin trials and the blue card at any level of the professional game would mark the biggest single shift in player discipline since the introduction of red and yellow cards for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

    The IFAB had also been poised to publish details of a trial which gave referees the option of creating a ‘captain-only zone’ around them when they felt threatened or intimidated, and one giving the referee the option to send teams to a cooling-off area in the event of mass confrontations.

    All of these had the intention of improving player behaviour, something FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said is essential to set the right example to young players and ensure people still feel safe, and encouraged, to be referees.

    Another trial that had been set for publication on February 9 concerned how long goalkeepers can handle the ball, and how play should restart when they hold on too long.

    Currently keepers can hold on for six seconds and anything over that is supposed to be penalised with an indirect free-kick, but lawmakers are concerned this is not being properly enforced.

    The management of head injuries is also on the AGM agenda.

    The World Leagues Forum and world players’ union FIFPRO have again written to the IFAB asking for permission to trial temporary concussion substitutes, something which was again rejected at last year’s AGM in London.

    The player union and domestic league in Scotland, this year’s host nation, are among those seeking the right to conduct such a trial.

    “From our perspective, we have a responsibility to those former players who are sadly living with dementia,” PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart said.

    “But we also have to take responsibility as a game – whether it’s the unions, leagues, the government bodies – for current players and future players, to minimise the chances, as much as we possibly can, of players getting dementia. We’re involved in this initiative because we do feel that temporary concussion subs are the next step forward.”

    Trials of permanent concussion substitutes were first approved by the IFAB in December 2020.

  • Jordan Henderson was ‘one of our best signings’, says Saudi league vice-chairman Jordan Henderson was ‘one of our best signings’, says Saudi league vice-chairman

    Jordan Henderson’s short-lived move to Saudi Arabia benefited the country’s league “a great deal”, its vice-chairman has said.

    The 33-year-old England midfielder completed a move to Dutch side Ajax last month after leaving Al Ettifaq less than six months into a lucrative three-year contract.

    Henderson hinted at regrets over his move to the Middle East in his introductory press conference in Amsterdam.

    He had previously championed LGBTQ+ rights and was widely condemned over the move to Saudi Arabia, where same-sex relationships are criminalised.

    However, Saudi Pro League boss Saad Al Lazeez told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit on Wednesday: “Jordan Henderson, even though he left, was one of the best signings in the Saudi Pro League.

    “We signed 93 players in the summer window, and I would say 28 to 30 of them would be in anybody’s list of the top 300 players, and you don’t expect all of them to stay.

    “Sometimes things do not work out, sometimes the player does not adapt, you expect those things to happen.

    “But I still maintain Jordan Henderson was one of our best signings, we benefited a great deal from his signing, we’re learning a lot of lessons and we will continue to grow from there.

    “We have been with Jordan throughout his journey from the day we signed him in the UK. We still maintain a good relationship with him. He’s a great guy, a great person. It just did not work out. So that’s life.”

    Henderson said on January 19: “In life, if you want to call them regrets or mistakes, you can call them that.

    “But, at the same time, they’re only mistakes if you don’t learn from them.

    “Looking back, at the time, obviously it was a big decision. It was a decision I felt was right for me and my family at the time, but things happen. Things change quickly in football.

    “I had to make another decision and this (joining Ajax) is the one I felt was right decision for me.”

  • You learn to dance in the rain – Steve Evans hails hard-fought win You learn to dance in the rain – Steve Evans hails hard-fought win

    Steve Evans was pleased to see his Stevenage side ‘dance in the rain’ as Boro returned to the top six with a 1-0 win over managerless Cambridge in League One.

    Jordan Roberts turned and swivelled on the edge of the box to score and press home Stevenage’s dominance after Us keeper Jack Stevens was called into action on multiple occasions, with his side now just five points above the relegation zone.

    As for Stevenage, they leapfrogged Oxford to move back into the play-off spots and Evans hopes his side have what it takes to weather the challenges ahead in the run-in.

    He said: “When you are in the promotional season, I have been in it many times. There are loads of storms that come.

    “Storms can be opposition, they can be officials or players getting injured. Storms could be bad misses; storms can be bad mistakes at the back or a bad error.

    “But you learn to dance in the rain, and that means you learn to work hard and be disciplined and I thought my players danced in the rain tonight.”

    Stevenage were threatened by Cambridge sporadically in the second half, and the home side failed to add a nerve-settling second goal for the second game in a row after failing to put 10-man Wycombe to the sword on Saturday.

    Evans said: “I think tonight there is no reason why we don’t score more, and we had a couple of one-on-ones and we have to take them.

    “We moved it around and we had big opportunities to get the second goal and then enjoy our evening, but I think this season we have never done it the easy way compared to last year.”

    Cambridge, meanwhile, have won only once in their last six games and find themselves without a manager ahead of a crunch trip to third-place Bolton on Saturday, with Barry Corr expected to take charge in the north-west.

    The interim head coach said: “Stevenage are very direct and get numbers around the ball, and we needed to do something about that.

    “You have to combat Stevenage and they are good at what they do. They spend ages over everything and Stevenage is a difficult place to come this year and they are having a brilliant season.

    “The fixtures have been difficult in the last three games, we played three teams in the top six. I don’t want to make excuses but these games won’t define our season and playing Bolton away won’t define our season.

    “But we will go there and we will look to be as competitive as we can, and we don’t want to feel sorry for ourselves.”

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