Superclásicos of recent years have failed to live up to the expectation of being one of world football’s most famous fixtures but on Sunday afternoon in the Estadio Monumental, Carlos Tevez inspired Boca Juniors to claim a famous 4-2 victory over fierce rivals River Plate.
All too often the highlight of the clash between the Buenos Aires heavyweights is the reception that the supporters give the players as they stride out onto the pitch as the game descends into a pitch battle punctuated with controversy rather than quality. Carlos Tevez admitted previously, “I’ve always found clásicos hard to play. I can’t cross the barrier from fan to player.”
However, Tevez did cross that barrier and his superb brace not only sent Boca Juniors top of the table but gave supporters reason to cheer a famous come-from-behind victory and the most goals in a superclásico since a 3-3 draw in 1997.
Despite having a vital Copa Argentina final on Thursday, Marcelo Gallardo named his strongest possible eleven for the visit of Boca but it was still the visitors that dominated the early exchanges. Young left back Luis Olivera and haphazard Arturo Mina were the focus of Boca’s attention and so when Carlos Tevez found Walter Bou completely unmarked after 13 minutes it was of little surprise when the in-form striker slotted the ball past Augusto Batalla.
The game needed that early goal and gradually it was River that began to take control. Andrés D’Alessandro’s influence grew and momentum now swung back in favour of the Gallardo’s side. Just as River’s defensive fragility had been exposed so too was Boca’s and when Gino Peruzzi headed the ball straight to the dangerous Sebastián Driussi on the penalty spot, the Primera’s leading scorer made no mistake in thrashing the ball into the net.
The home side were not done there and further lapses in Boca’s defence allowed D’Alessandro to pick out Lucas Alario from deep so the centre forward could nod the ball past a helpless Axel Werner.
A breathless first half came to a close and after Boca initially looked as though they may run riot, it was River that ended the opening 45 minutes well and truly in the ascendency. Woeful defences may have contributed to the influx of goals but this was a superclásico, the likes of which had not been seen for a long time.
On the hour mark, Marcelo Gallardo began to think of Thursday and so D’Alessandro was withdrawn in favour of the more defensive Iván Rossi. The veteran playmaker received a standing ovation on his way off the pitch knowing that this could be the last time with his deal expired and a return to Internacional on the cards.
Within minutes of this substitution, Boca were level. Walter Bou acrobatically volleyed the ball over the top and although goalkeeper Augusto Batalla beat Carlos Tevez to the ball, his touch was weak, rebounding off Tevez and into the former Juventus forward’s path for a simple finish.
The clásico hung in the balance but in the 81st minute, Tevez struck again. Cristian Pavón laid the ball into the path of the iconic striker and the 32-year-old expertly curled the ball into the top corner for one of the most defining moments of his glittering career. Tevez’s return to his boyhood club has perhaps not been the fairytale he had hoped for and amid growing rumours that a lucrative move to China could be on the cards, such a role in a superclásico victory could scarcely be a better way to sign off.
In stoppage time, Ricardo Centuríon wrapped up the win when he ran onto a long hoof downfield, clipped the ball over a stranded Batalla and headed into the empty net but make no mistake there was one man stealing all the headlines.
Tevez hasn’t been able to deliver Boca another Copa Libertadores title but if this was indeed his parting gift, it was a good one. The victory takes Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side to the top of the Primera and with one game before the midseason break, it is difficult not to see Boca as favourites for the title.
River Plate 2 – 4 Boca Juniors