River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo praised his players’ resilience after the Copa Libertadores final’s first leg and claimed they “know” they cannot lose at home.
Gallardo, who was sent to the stands during the second half of Wednesday’s match away to Tigres UANL, focused on the “difficulties” River dealt with at the Estadio Universitario de Nuevo Leon – with the temperature at kick-off reaching 35 degrees Celsius, while the home side dominated possession.
But River still managed to claim a scoreless draw in Mexico, setting them up to win their third Copa Libertadores title when they host the second leg in Buenos Aires on August 5.
“According to all the difficulties we had today, taking a draw from here is good for us,” Gallardo said after the game.
The 39-year-old coach added: “The players made a great effort, and I want to thank them for that.
“I saw players that played out of their skin with every ball, when the body and the head did not respond. River became a competitive and mature team, that didn’t bend, and gets stronger in adverse circumstances.”
Gallardo was banished from the bench in the 73rd minute, while River will also miss Gabriel Mercado next week after the full-back received a yellow card in the first half – his third of the Copa Libertadores’ knockout stage.
But despite that, Gallardo predicted River would emerge victorious at the Estadio Monumental.
“The crowd will push, and the players know, that at home, we can’t lose this trophy,” he said.
If Gallardo leads River to continental glory, he will become the fifth person to win the Copa Libertadores both as a player and as a coach, having previously lifted the trophy in 1996.
Only two other individuals have completed that double with the same club – Jose Omar Pastoriza with Independiente (1972 and 1984) and Juan Martin Mujica with Nacional (1971 and 1980).
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