With a vital Copa Libertadores playoff match in México on Wednesday, Facundo Sava fielded a largely reserve side for the summer clásico de Avellaneda in Mar del Plata. In spite of this disadvantage, La Academia celebrated victory over rivals Independiente with two quick-fire second half goals sealing a 3-1 victory. The result may have been very different but just as it did when the two sides met in their pre-Libertadores clash in November, El Rojo were left to rue the reckless tackling of Diego Rodríguez. The Uruguayan was shown a straight red card after just 22 minutes and handed the momentum to Racing in the process.
After a goalless first half, Independiente had managed to remain well in the match despite the numerical disadvantage until around the hour mark. The talented Óscar Romero thread a superb pass in behind full-back Gustavo Toledo and Ricardo Noir clipped the ball over the onrushing Ruso Rodríguez.
The chances of an Independiente comeback looked slim but Juan Martín Lucero, whose status at the club may well be under threat should Germán Denis return, headed El Rojo level from a Toledo cross.
However, it proved to be only a consolation as a dreadful defensive mix-up between Víctor Cuesta and Emanuel Aguilera allowed Lautaro Martínez to run through on goal and slot the ball between the legs of Rodríguez. Still coming to terms with falling behind again, Independiente allowed the match to slip away beyond doubt when a simple ball over the top found Roger Martínez and the returning Colombian hammered the ball past El Rojo’s under-fire goalkeeper at his near post.
The result is a boost for Facundo Sava and his fringe players ahead of a season where the squad will be stretched while for El Rojo there are still questions for Mauricio Pellegrino. Are sections of the supporters justified in their criticism of Ruso and is this defence sturdy enough to lift a title? The season begins in one week so the answers are not far away.