By Tim Stannard
Independiente Sante Fe considering sport swap to curling after losing to COVID-ravaged River Plate
Who needs bloated matchday squads?
Or goalkeepers come to think of it? Overrated.
River Plate certainly don't with the Argentinean team pulling off on Wednesday night what Sports Burst is officially claiming to be THE GREATEST WIN IN HISTORY! REALLY!
The scenario going into Wednesday's Match Day 5 Copa Libertadores game against Independiente Santa Fe was not a promising one for the Argentinean giants. A COVID-19 outbreak had left River without 20 first-team players to call on and not a single goalkeeper. All four were ruled out and local governing body, CONMEBOL, refused permission for a fifth to be called up from the reserve team.
That meant that an injured midfielder had to go in goal. The chosen one was former Valencia and Argentina player, Enzo Perez. River Plate began the match against the Colombian rivals with 11 outfield players and without a single substitute. The bench was emptier than a gathering of the Real Madrid Eden Hazard Appreciation Society.
But River began the match at a blistering rate, going 2-0 up within seven minutes and hanging on in there with Perez conceding just the single goal late on to claim a remarkable 2-1 win. Sante Fe's approach was simply to blast balls from long distance hoping that Perez had completely lost the use of his arms and had failing eyesight.
That didn't work and River walked away with a Hollywood win while Santa Fe might just contemplate giving up the whole soccer business completely. "This night will forever be forged in fire," declared River Plate coach, Marcelo Gallarado. He's not wrong.
You can relive THE GREATEST WIN IN HISTORY! REALLY! on beIN SPORTS today from 3PM ET / 12PM PT.
And tune into more wonderful madness from the Copa Libertadores today with River's rivals Boca Juniors taking on Barcelona SC at 8PM ET / 5PM PT. Complete with goalkeepers and substitutes.
Barcelona look to Hansi Flick
Speaking of Barcelona, the one in LaLiga anyway, and Wednesday's River Plate result further sends the Camp Nou club down the walk of shame having lost at home to Granada and Celta Vigo with substitutes and a proper goalkeeper. And Lionel Messi
Joan Laporta hinted rather strongly that the capitulation in LaLiga for Barcelona was wholly unacceptable that that changes were to come this summer with the start of a new cycle at the club. It's 99% set to start without Ronald Koeman in charge. Instead, it could be a coach who has won two Bundesliga titles, a Champions League title and is also available in just a few day's time.
Too good to be true? Almost. The figure is soon-to-be former Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick. The problem there though is that Flick is set for some Mannschaft action with the German national team...but the Camp Nou could be quite the temptation.
Real Madrid given double Villarreal boost
Unfortunately for Barcelona fans, the team will play no part on Saturday's LaLiga title race finale with coverage getting underway from 11AM ET / 8AM PT on beIN SPORTS. But Real Madrid are. And the team currently in second place in the standings have been given an enormous boost by Villarreal coach, Unai Emery.
The visitors are safe and snug in a European spot of some sort for next season and have a Europa League final against Manchester United on Wednesday, that could give passage to the Champions League final with a win. So suggestions that the game is not priority number one for Unai Emery were confirmed when the Yellow Submarine commander admitted that "on Saturday we will have one eye on the Manchester United game."
Coach Zizou - Coach Zizou with Real Madrid for just one more match potentially - was given a further boost with Raphael Varane looking good for a return from injury for Saturday's game at Valdebebas. Less likely though is Sergio Ramos who might miss out on the chance to play for Real Madrid for the last time with the footballer's contract running out in June and no sign of a renewal.