A Sunday packed with possibly the three biggest matches in Argentine football promised so much but delivered nothing more than coma-inducing goalless draws. (Normally I would write reports for each match but after sitting through all of them, I am grouping them all in together.)
Starting in Rosario, Newell’s Old Boys were attempting to break Rosario Central’s recent stranglehold on the clásico. El Canalla had their own motivation after just one win in six saw them lose serious ground on the leaders in Zone One so anticipation for one of Argentina’s most passionate matches was high. However, that passion was about as good as it got. The Estadio Marcelo Bielsa was rocking, the supporters created a spectacle but on the pitch it was more about full-blooded challenges and squabbling rather than any actual football. Damián Musto was sent off late on but the game ended goalless, a result which helped neither side but perhaps avoiding defeat was the main thing (that’s a bit of a theme on clásico weekend).
Still before we could get too disheartened attention quickly turned to La Bombonera, for the Superclásico. The previous meeting in the Monumental was a bore draw so surely history couldn’t repeat itself. Neither side could win the title so it was all on the line, nothing to play for other than the bragging rights. The stage was set.
And then the game started and quickly reminded us why for a match that is held up as Argentine football’s flagship event, it is often utterly dreadful. Pablo Pérez was sent off for Boca after eleven minutes for a kick aimed at Eder Álvarez Balanta after the River defender had challenged Agustín Orión but even with a man advantage, the visitors were unable to take advantage.
Both sides have Copa Libertadores last 16 first legs next week and took no risks, as once more the protagonists appeared more interesting in avoiding defeat than pushing to win. Fernando Gago produced the most noteworthy incident when he collapsed to the turf moments before half time, initially looking as though he was diving to try and get Lucas Alario booked, but in fact it transpires has ruptured his achilles again. Just as he did in the previous superclásico, Gago was stretchered off and will face 6-8 months out.
Ok, so two games in and still no goals. Next up the clásico de Avellaneda, where Racing hosted Independiente, who made the shortest of journeys hoping not only to beat their rivals but to maintain a title challenge. After seeing Godoy Cruz and San Lorenzo win, El Rojo needed to follow suit and against a Racing side that obviously had eyes on the Copa Libertadores, it was a perfect opportunity.
No, not three in a row? Another 90 minutes of imprecise, dreary football where Mauricio Pellegrino’s side once more failed to turn up to a match that was far more ‘must-win’ for them than it was Racing. La Academia should perhaps have won it when Federico Beligoy failed to spot Gustavo Toledo’s handball when blocking a last minute Lisandro López volley.
And so finally to Córdoba. Belgrano against Atlético Tucumán isn’t even a clásico so surely they could break this tedious run and give us something? Yeah? Guys? Right? Oh…you couldn’t. A fourth game of the day and another bore-draw.
And that was Sunday in the Argentine Primera, a day that I will never get back. There were ten matches this weekend (over Saturday and Sunday) and red cards outweighed goals by seven to five. That tells you all you need to know about clásico weekend.