River’s Bruno Zuculini celebrates his first goal with teammates at the Zayed Sports City. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: South American Champions River Plate, whose pride was severely dented following the shock defeat at the hands of hosts Al Ain in semi-finals, clinched their third place play-off against Japan’s Kashima Antlers with a 4-0 win in the Club World Cup at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Saturday. At half-time, River led 1-0.

Gonzalo Martinez scored a brace while Bruno Zuculini and Santos Borre fired a goal apiece to complete the tally for the winners to redeem some pride.

River Plate’s Gonzalo Martinez acknowledges the crowd after scoring the second goal against Kashima Antlers in the third place play-off yesterday. River won 4-0. Image Credit: Reuters

River Plate’s Club World Cup dream had ended on Tuesday in dramatic circumstances after Al Ain closed the door on them in penalties after being tied 2-2.

The loss was a hard pill for the River fans, who travelled in large numbers, to swallow as it had come just little over a week after their side had won the Copa Libertadores beating arch rivals Boca Juniors.

The win against Kashima, however, wasn’t that easy as the scoreboard would suggest as River were made to work hard for their goals by the Asian Champions.

River survived an early scare after conceding a corner in the 10th minute. Inukai Tomoya rose high to nod the release from Endo Yasushi, the ball dropped on the feet of unmarked Seunghyun Jung, who deflected it but goalkeeper German Lux plucked it out from the goalline.

Kashima goalkeeper Suntae Kwoun was replaced following an injury but his replacement Sogahata Hitoshi made a worst start to his campaign in the tournament. He conceded a goal even before Kwoun had reached the dugout — limping off the sidelines. Zuculini scored off a header from a corner by Nicolas de La Cruz — the ball brushing the vertical before settling into the net to give River Plate the lead in the 24th minute.

Argentina’s River Plate supporters celebrate a goal against Kashima Antlers at the Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Minutes later, Hitoshi kept out a free kick from Julian Alvarez to prevent his side from further blushes.

Kashima players remained undeterred and kept pressing. They were unlucky not to draw level just before the breather after Abe Hiroki made a defence splitting run. He, after dribbling past a couple of defenders, unleashed a powerful right footer but only saw it being blocked by River defender Javier Pinola. The rebound landed back in play and the resultant effort from Anzai Koki found the top of the framework.

After the change of ends, Borre who had scored two goals against Al Ain, buried one at the back of the net but only to see the offside flag go up.

Kashima supporters cheer on the stands before the start of the third place playoff match. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Kashima then had a great opportunity to draw level in the 52nd minute when Doi Shoma had the River goalkeeper Lux at his mercy. Shoma’s right footed attempt after making a fine run from the centre was well kept out with a reflex save to the right by Lux.

River then doubled the lead in the 73rd minute as soon as substitute Gonzalo Martinez took the field in place of de La Cruz. Martinez shot home from close range after being set on the turn by Julian Alvarez.

In the 83rd minute, Doi was unfortunate that his attempt again went in vain for Kashima as it rattled the framework. Immediately after, a free kick from Nagaki Ryota found the top corner of the post to make it 2-0.

The wind were completely off the sails of Kashima with Borre also getting into the scoring act following a penalty. Borre was brought down by Inukai Tomoya and the latter made no mistake from the spot.

Martinez then completed his double with a measured chip over the Kashima goalkeeper Hitoshi in the last minute of injury time.