Time to start considering Lanús & Godoy Cruz as serious title contenders
Over the halfway mark now of this short championship and the leaders in their respective zones are Godoy Cruz and Lanús – now who would have predicted that before the season? Neither side are showing any signs of slowing down and in round nine, both scored four goals in one half to ease past their opponents.
Lanús turned on the style early to have an away victory over Unión wrapped up by half time. The combination of a mean defence, marshalled by Diego Braghieri and Paraguayan Gustavo Gómez, and a talented attack spearheaded by Jose Sand and Lautaro Acosta, makes El Granate now favourites for that top spot in Zone Two.
Topping Zone One looks like a bigger ask for Godoy Cruz but after falling behind to Vélez on Sunday night, El Tomba went up through the gears after the break to chalk up a sixth win of the season. Santiago García has proved to be an astute signing and has brought the best from strike partner Jaime Ayoví.
Seven games remain and without any significant injury or a drastic loss of form it is tough to see either side dropping too many points, which could at least guarantee a Copa Libertadores spot for 2017.
Pablo Guede saves his job with superb San Lorenzo comeback
Under pressure San Lorenzo boss, Pablo Guede perhaps had his bags packed after 28 minutes when former player Sebastián Luna put Belgrano two-nil up in the Nuevo Gasómetro. In desperate need of a reaction, the former Palestino boss got just that from his players and before the break goals from Sebastián Blanco and Ezequiel Cerutti had brought the home side level. Fernando Belluschi’s deflected second half strike completed the comeback and Los Cuervos claimed their first league win in five matches.
El Ciclón and Guede in particular are far from out of the woods yet. An awkward trip to México lies ahead where they need to defeat group six leaders Toluca in the Copa Libertadores if they are to progress. Failure to qualify for the knockout stages would be another critical blow to Geude’s prolonged job prospects.
Despite not winning in the league since defeating Vélez by the same margin as Belgrano, San Lorenzo remain only five points behind Godoy Cruz but worryingly Guede has still not found a balance from his side or a defensive resiliance that the side had under Edgardo Bauza. Belgrano have been poor in 2016 and against a better side, fighting back from two-down may not be possible.
Carlos Tevez leads Boca back on the path to victory
Boca Juniors produced perhaps their best display of the season to deservedly beat Atlético Rafaela in La Bombonera and begin to put behind them what has been a pretty dreadful few weeks.
A delightful Carlos Tevez lob opened the scoring midway through the second half to settle any nerves and moments before the break, Federico Carrizo swept in a second. The visitors were given an opportunity to get back into the game via the penalty spot when Agustín Orión took down Federico Anselmo but after perhaps being fortunate not to see red, the goalkeeper redeemed himself by saving Agustín Díaz’s effort.
With less than ten minutes remaining, Nicolás Lodeiro wrapped up the win with a simple close range finish. It wasn’t a vintage display but it was an important fourth league win of the season and crucially a return to goalscoring form. Five of their nine matches have ended in a blank and it was imperative that Barros Schelotto found a time that could pose more of a goal threat. Where this leaves Dani Osvaldo when he returns from injury is unclear, as Boca and Tevez look more dangerous at present with the pace of Carrizo and Pavón in attack.
Racing continue to entertain with a porous defence and deadly attack
The Primera División’s entertainers, Racing needed an injury time Ricardo Noir goal to claim a point from Tigre’s visit to the Cilindro in another wonderfully open game of football. In the absence of Luciano Lollo, La Academia have adapted the attitude that they will simply outscore their opponents and having won their previous four it has been working. In the circumstance of Saturday, it was a point won but a home fixture against Tigre for a Racing side, eyeing a title challenge it is two dropped.
Facundo Sava will know that his side cannot continue defending like this for the period that Lollo remains sidelined. In the four games since the defender metatarsal, Racing have conceded ten goals, Saturday being the third time that they have shipped three. On the other occasions, La Academia have scored six to gloss over their defensive deficiences but they proved costly against Tigre.
With perhaps the best playmaker in the league in Oscar Romero, behind a strikeforce of Gustavo Bou, Diego Milito or Lisandro López, Racing have the weapons to score against any side but against stiffer opposition than Tigre, Unión or Atlético Rafaela they simply cannot defend they were they are at present.
River are in desperate need of a change in fortune
River Plate were able to name a much stronger starting lineup than had been suggested in the week after nine members of the first team squad were struck with gastroentiritis but their luck didn’t extend far. A controversial penalty decision handed victory to Patronato in Paraná and left Marcelo Gallardo’s side languishing down in eleventh.
River’s Transición is already over and after injury and illness robbed Gallardo of over half his squad in the week and then a storm prevented them flying until the day of the game, the Copa Libertadores winning coach must have been wondering what else could happen.
Against Patronato, Gallardo found out after 25 minutes when Mauro Vigliano judged Gabriel Mercado to have fouled Abel Masuero at a corner and gifted the home side a penalty. Althought Rodrigo Mora did equalise, River were undone by a powerful Mauricio Carrasco volley which squirmed through Augusto Batalla’s grasp.
River are now 11 points off the lead in Zone One and with only seven games remaining any hopes of challenging are well and truly gone. A Libertadores spot for next year courtesy of this year’s Transición is surely out of reach and so all focus is now on getting out of their group and defending their continental crown.
…And all the goals from Round Nine.