It is debatable whether playing highly charged derbies as part of preseason is a particularly useful means of preparation but after a January of lacklustre friendlies played at walking pace, Independiente and Racing Club served up an exciting Torneo de Verano clash that eventually gave the red half of Avellaneda reason to cheer.
Independiente managed to extend the positive atmosphere at the club from 2017 with a penalty win over their fierce rivals but there was certainly cause for optimism for Racing with Eduardo Coudet’s side attacking with far more purpose than Diego Cocca managed and Lautaro Martínez proving why he is the biggest talent in Argentina with two goals.
Despite it being a friendly, the match in Mar del Plata was played at a tremendous pace and after Racing threatened early on, Independiente took control.
Leandro Fernández put Ariel Holan’s side ahead from the penalty spot after eight minutes when Alexis Soto blocked the forward’s attempted cross with an outstretched arm and soon after El Rojo doubled the lead. A blistering counter attack cut through Racing and Maxi Meza squared for Fernández to tap in.
Racing swiftly pulled a goal back when a weak clearance from Alan Franco gifted the ball to Lisandro López, who crossed for Lautaro Martínez to stab in but El Rojo may feel they should have been further ahead at the break. Referee Mauro Vigliano waved away a strong claim for a second penalty after Fernández was tripped charging into the area and Emmanuel Gigliotti forced Juan Musso into a terrific save.
However, that changed after the break and it was Racing in the ascendency. Independiente, short of match fitness and in obvious need of reinforcements after the sales of Nicolás Tagliafico and Ezequiel Barco, dropped off the pace and Eduardo Coudet’s side took control.
Somehow Diego González and Lautaro Martínez failed to get on the end of Lisandro López’s cross immediately after half time and after failing to make their pressure count, it looked as though Racing’s efforts would end in defeat.
That was the case until the 89th minute when another defensive blunder, this time by substitute Nicolás Figal, gifted Martínez a second.
Racing had Miguel Barbieri sent off in stoppage time for the last in a series of strong challenges on Independiente danger man Maxi Meza but it was too late for any advantage, forcing the match to penalties.
Gastón Silva missed Independiente’s first effort but La Academia failed to take advantage when Alejandro Donatti did the same. From there, El Rojo were perfect in the execution so two wild efforts by Enrique Triverio and lastly Lautaro Martínez handed victory to the Copa Sudamericana champions.
Both sides should have some new faces to add in the coming week or so and there was enough on show in patches that it could be a good 2018 in Avellaneda.
INDEPENDIENTE: Martín Campaña; Fabricio Bustos, Alan Franco (Nicolás Figal), Fernando Amorebieta, Gastón Silva; Diego Rodríguez (Jonás Gutiérrez), Nico Domingo, Maximiliano Meza; Leandro Fernández (Juan Sánchez Miño), Emmanuel Gigliotti, Martín Benitez (Lucas Albertengo)
RACING: Juan Musso; Renzo Saravia, Rodrigo Schlegel, Miguel Barbieri, Alexis Soto (Enrique Triverio); Matías Zaracho (Maxi Cuadra), Diego González, Nery Domínguez, Neri Cardozo (Brian Mansilla); Lisandro López, Lautaro Martínez