Al Ain: River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo refused to get drawn into any conclusive speeches after his side’s shock 5-4 penalty shoot-out defeat to Al Ain in Tuesday’s Fifa Club World Cup semi-finals.
The Argentine appears to have taken Los Millonarios as far as he can after twice failing to lift the Club World Cup, despite winning his second Copa Libertadores title in four years just last week with victory over arch-rivals Boca Juniors in Madrid.
With all the pre-tournament talk linking him with a move to Europe — and a seat now open with Jose Mourinho having just left Manchester United — this could be the perfect moment for him to cash in, but he wasn’t letting that show.
“It is difficult to evaluate the year, today,” he said. “We still have the pain of our defeat.
“After some days I will say this year’s evaluation will be a very positive one. We won the Copa Libertadores, everyone talks about it.
“Today, we received a hit on our cheeks. Defeats teach you things, in the same way you celebrate winning a match. When you lose, you put your feet on the ground. This does not in any way make our title in Spain any less important.”
Despite Santos Borre’s brace cancelling out Marcus Berg’s third-minute opener on 11 and 16 minutes, Al Ain equalised through Caio Lucas on 51 minutes, and Gonzalo Martinez hit the crossbar from the spot on 69. Khalid Eisa then saved Enzo Perez’ last kick in the shoot-out.
“The game was very strange how it developed,” added Gallardo. “We were losing after only a few minutes and then winning.
“We could have killed the game, we were ahead. We had to know how to make a difference, how to focus on our game despite coming from having celebrated a title.
“We had a lot of surrounding activities, our work was to try and focus on this match, but unfortunately, this happened.
“We weren’t fully focused, but I don’t want to use this as an excuse. We must use this as a lesson.”
Of a string of midfield changes, including Real target Exequiel Palacios, the coach said: “We had some issues with some of the players. They were tired and we needed to look for the game. We entered some more-offensive players. We hoped they could give us a victory, but it was a broken match.
“We had no fluidity. That is our team’s signature and that was a disaster. I don’t want to use this as an excuse but that is how the game went.
“We are clearly in pain for this defeat but in no way is it a shame to lose. Shame is something else. To lose a match is within the possibilities of a game. You have to know how to respect the winner.
“The opponent has their own merit. I don’t want to take any merit from them, but we gave them some advantages.”
River Plate will now play the loser of Wednesday’s second semi-final between Real Madrid and Kashima Antlers in the third place play-off at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City from 5.30pm on Saturday.