Sudamericana: Arsenal beats River

Goalkeeper Cuenca booted in the winner as Arsenal de Sarandi stunned River Plate in a penalty shootout 4-2 to make to the Copa Sudamericana finals.

updated: November 16, 2007 07:57 IST
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Buenos Aires, Argentina:

Goalkeeper Mario Cuenca booted in the winner as Arsenal de Sarandi stunned River Plate in a penalty shootout 4-2 to advance to the Copa Sudamericana finals against America of Mexico on Wednesday.

Cuenca also made two saves in the shootout.

"I was waiting for this chance to come, and when it came, I seized the moment," Cuenca said.

The two-leg championship opens on Nov. 28 at Aztec Stadium in Mexico City and concludes on December 5 in Buenos Aires.

Arsenal battled to a scoreless draw with River Plate a week ago at home in the Argentine capital, and the dramatic penalty finale came after both teams drew 0-0 in regulation on Wednesday before more than 50,000 spectators at Monumental Stadium.

Leonardo Biagini had a clear scoring chance in the third minute but his powerful kick ricocheted off the crossbar. Three minutes later River's Fernando Belluschi belted a ball that went just wide of Cuenca in the Arsenal net.

River, already without Colombia striker Radamel Falcao, further felt the loss of star Ariel Ortega, who was injured in the 21st minute, leaving only the youthful Diego Buananotte to threaten on attack.

In the second half, Arsenal's Sebastian Carrera went one-on-one against River goalkeeper Pablo Carriza only to shoot high.

Then it was River's turn, as two searing Belluschi shots were saved by Cuenca.

River coach Daniel Passarella made three substitutions late in the match in hopes of finding the right mix, but River ended up playing one man down after the expulsion of Oscar Ahumada in the 85th for rough play.

In the penalty shootout, Jose Calderon, Javier Yacuzzi, Carlos Castiglione and Cuenca converted their shots.

Cuenca also made two saves, only failing against Rolando Zarate and Paolo Ferrari.

Arsenal coach Gustavo Alfaro said the team went into the match confident even if it went to penalties.

"We knew ... that would favor us, because we are confident of Mario Cuenca's ability in those kinds of situations," he said.

America beat Millonarios of Colombia 2-0 on Tuesday to reach the finals 5-2 on aggregate.

America became only the third Mexican club to qualify for the finals of the second-leading South American club championship. In 2005 the Pumas lost to Boca Juniors, and last year Pachuca of Mexico beat Colo Colo of Chile.