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Every league has its ups and downs, but only in Argentina can the trajectory of a season so closely resemble a roller-coaster, as the last two weeks of the Apertura demonstrates. From a veritable goal-fest last week Boca, River and the rest of the Primera had a week to forget, with a host of action-free games between them yielding just 13 goals.
With few highlights, the usually madcap atmosphere of the terraces was compromised, as an epidemic of stifled yawns accompanied the usual hangover-inducing drum lines and chanting. Fans of the away teams suffered more than most, managing just three points and two goals across the round. As someone who had the disadvantage of watching one of the more timid, safety-first visitors this week let me assure: it did not make for exciting viewing.
Elsewhere this week fans who appreciate the sartorial side of football were left delighted, as Fernando ‘El Negro’ Gamboa returned to the Primera as the new Colon manager.
Going for the ‘Argentine Johnny Cash’ look in his distinctive all black shirt and suit trousers, Gamboa’s return gives the Primera a much-needed fashion boost after weeks of enduring the tracksuit and polo-shirt look favoured by Claudio Borghi and Ricardo Caruso. Now we just need Diego Simeone and his impossibly tight trousers to make a return and the fashionistas of the league will be back in the ascendancy. Independiente, are you listening?
Colon Down The Leaders In The ‘Elephant’s Graveyard’
With Antonio Mohamed falling on his sword and the aforementioned Gamboa only in the stands for the visit of league leaders San Lorenzo, it was left to caretaker duo Mario Sciacqua and Roberto Marioni to mastermind an impressive victory for Colon on Saturday. It was only the second win of the season for the Santa Fe outfit.
The Sabaleros took the lead after a cagey opening half hour, impressive number 10 Damian Diaz opening the scoring with a close-range rebound that left Damian Albil no chance. Colon then had to absorb wave after wave of ‘Ciclon’ attacks, Marcos Diaz excelling in the home net after Diego Pozo pulled out shortly before kick-off.
With San Lorenzo becoming more and more desperate for an equaliser holes began appearing in their usually watertight backline. With just seconds to go substitute Joaquin Larrivey took full advantage to put the game beyond doubt. The ex-Cagliari forward found himself free in the area and slotted the ball between Albil’s legs for the second, ensuring a valuable three points for the home side, which gives them a chance of escaping the bottom half in ‘El Negro’s debut next week.
Rojo Thunderbolt Gives Estudiantes All Three Points Against A Lacklustre Boca
In just one of the many games which failed to live up to expectations this week, Marco Rojo woke up earlier than everyone to secure a win for Estudiantes at home to Boca Juniors. The left-back, not known for his goalscoring exploits, unleashed a rocket of a shot into the top corner of Cristian Lucchetti’s net after just 90 seconds – and 88 minutes of tepid football later the scoreline remained untouched to send the ‘Pincha’ within touching distance of the Apertura summit.
Boca were suffocated in midfield by the all-action trio of Juan Sebastian Veron, Rodrigo Brana and Enzo Perez, and barely created a chance until the dying minutes of the game. It was only when the clock struck 90 that Claudio Borghi’s men started to show some attacking threat, but after some fairly chaotic goalmouth scrambling the home side staggered out with clean sheet still intact.
Estudiantes will go top if they can overcome hated neighbours Gimnasia on Wednesday in their game in hand, while Boca remain marooned in mid-table, the dream of Libertadores football next season looking more and more unlikely.
Velez Barely Break Sweat In a Routine Liniers Thrashing
After two goalless stalemates, Velez Sarsfield got their season back on track with a polished 3-0 dismissal of Primera new-boys Olimpo on Friday evening. The ‘Fortin’ never looked troubled as they entertained their home fans, and are the new occupants of the treasured top-spot.
With Maxi Moralez back from injury and looking at his dizzying best, Velez struck twice in six first half minutes to effectively put the game beyond the visitors. Juan Manuel Martinez played a lovely one-two with Moralez to put himself clear of the last defender, and delicately poked the ball past Laureano Tombolini with 23 minutes on the clock. And before the half hour had passed Moralez turned from provider to recipient, benefiting from a barnstorming run from Luciano Vella to double the advantage.
Demoralised by the scoreline at half-time Olimpo lost their heads after the break, and saw defenders Cristian Villanueva and Eduardo Casais both expelled early in the period. Against nine men Velez settled into cruise control, and defender Eduardo Dominguez found himself on the end of a clinical counter-attack to add a third for the home side.
Best Of The Rest
River Plate dropped much-needed points at home to Quilmes with a 1-1 draw, in a game the ‘Millonarios’ really should have walked away with. Mariano Pavone gave his side a lead early in the second half with a well-taken volley, and River went on to waste countless chances to put the game to bed; previously clinical striker Rogelio Funes Mori particularly guilty. They would pay for their profligacy; referee Pompei gave Quilmes a free-kick for reasons only he knows, and Miguel Caneo took advantage of indecision from Juan Pablo Carrizo to level the game.
Elsewhere still coach-less Independiente recorded their first win of the season thanks to defender Leonel Galeano’s effort against fellow-strugglers Gimnasia while Argentinos Juniors upset the form-book by grabbing a first win of their own against unbeatenBanfield – giving Pedro Troglio some much-needed breathing space on the ‘Bicho’ bench.
Full Results of Round 8:
|Velez Sarsfield||3||0||Olimpo (B. Blanca)|
|Independiente||1||0||G. y Esgrima L.P.|
|Estudiantes L.P.||1||0||Boca Jrs.|
|Colon||2||0||San Lorenzo de A.|
|Arsenal F.C.||0||0||N.O. Boys|
|Huracan||1||1||Godoy Cruz (Mza.)|
|River Plate||1||1||Quilmes A.C.|
Hero Of The Week
In a week where few players distinguished themselves for good reasons, Maxi Moralez was a welcome exception. The diminutive enganche scored one and set one up as Velez Sarsfield returned to the summit of Argentine football.
Zero Of The Week
Damian Escudero, Boca Juniors. The midfielder had been saying for weeks playing out of position was affecting his game, as he toiled and looked distinctly unimpressive at number 10. Claudio Borghi obliged and put him in his favoured left midfield post, and the ex-Villareal player rewarded ‘El Bichi’ by, well, toiling and looking distinctly unimpressive.
Quote of the Week
“They don’t even know who Batista is in Uruguay!”
Referring to the accepted fact that international football managers have to be playing legends and recognised in even the smallest African village (something that obviously Spain, Italy and Brazil hadn’t heard when they came out on top), Diego Maradona makes a storming return to public life with his first interview in three months.
Usually such an angry presence on the Tigre bench, Ricardo Caruso Lombardi came over all soppy and nostalgic on Sunday afternoon as he got hugged by roughly half of his former Racing Club charges prior to the game. The column’s favourite was soon back to his best however, prowling the technical area like a caged, bearded lion and remonstrating with the officials when – as happened fairly regularly – a Tigre player was punished for kicking an opponent very hard in the leg.