As we near the end of the year and the midseason break in Argentina, matters at the top and bottom of the Primera table are becoming a little clearer. November brought a host of managerial changes and a national team that required the brilliance of Lionel Messi to avoid a near meltdown. As ever this is a quick look back on events before selecting our Manager, Team, Player and Goal of the month.
Sadly, November ended in the most tragic of circumstances with the Chapecoense plane crash and the events sent shockwaves throughout the world of football. Argentine football paid its respects this weekend with all the clubs using shirts with the Brazilian club’s badge and River Plate wore green in honour of all those who died. Chapecoense eliminated Independiente and San Lorenzo en route to the final and were poised to take part in the biggest match in their history. Our thoughts go out to the families and friends of all those who died on that flight.
Aside from going out of the Copa Sudamericana, San Lorenzo also crashed out of the Copa Argentina, which reaches its climax next week. Rosario Central beat beleaguered Belgrano to set up a tantalising final with River Plate, who defeated San Lorenzo’s victors, Gimnasia.
Los Cuervos do however remain very much in the title race as we near the half way point. Estudiantes still sit out in front but have been pegged back over the past few weeks after suffering their first defeat of the season at the hands of a resurgent Banfield. Boca Juniors ended their nine-month wait for an away win and are now the side with the longest current unbeaten record. Fernando Gago made his long awaited return to first team action and has immediately impressed so Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side appear to be finding their stride at just the right time.
At the bottom of the descenso, things are getting rather nervy for a number of sides and in November almost all the clubs involved in the fight for survival decided a managerial change could turn things around. Quilmes are the only club in the bottom ten not to have changed coaches since the start of the season and in just twelve rounds of matches, almost half the 30-team league has undergone at least one change.
Sarmiento’s switch to Jorge Burruchaga is the one that has had the most immediate impact with El Verde picking up seven points from a possible nine and beginning to look like an impossible escape is on.
And away from the domestic football, Argentina’s rollercoaster World Cup qualifying campaign continued. A heavy defeat away to Brazil spelled trouble after FIFA’s decision to punish Bolivia by awarding Chile a 3-0 victory and in turn relegate La Albiceleste outside the qualifying places.
However, some days later in San Juan, Lionel Messi produced another of his great performances to help Edgardo Bauza’s under-fire squad to victory over Colombia and set qualification back on track. Media furore over the defeat to Brazil and a rumoured bust-up involving Ezequiel Lavezzi and a sly joint at the training camp, led Messi to hold a press conference with the entire squad and announce that they would no longer be dealing with the media.
That was November in a nutshell and now this is the awards….
Manager of the month
A tip of the cap to Julio César Falcioni for Banfield’s recent form and ending Estudiantes’ 21-match unbeaten streak but November’s manager of the month goes to Frank Kudelka. After waiting five matches for a win back in the top flight, Tallares have been utterly superb since – unbeaten in seven and without even a goal conceded now in over 540 minutes of football. Even with injuries in November, Kudelka kept La T compact and difficult to break down before dangerously breaking on the counter. Talleres always looked as though they were equipped for the Primera but they are now really proving it.
Team of the month
Player of the month
After his initial performances some Boca Juniors supporters were questioning the fee paid for Darío Benedetto but over the past few weeks, the striker has more than repaid the club’s faith. The 26-year-old had already begun finding the back of the net but two smart finishes in La Plata started the month and helped Boca to a first away win in nine months. This was followed by a delightful finish in the draw with Rosario Central and capped off by a wonderful lob as Boca beat San Lorenzo in the Nuevo Gasómetro. Benedetto’s pace and finishing ability has provided Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side with the cutting edge that it required.
Goal of the month
A) Cristian Pavón – BOCA JUNIORS v Gimnasia
B) Sebastián Blanco – SAN LORENZO v Huracán
C) Gonzalo Bergessio – Independiente v SAN LORENZO
D) Darío Benedetto – San Lorenzo v BOCA JUNIORS
Howler of the month
Fernando Pellegrino won’t want to see this again….