The title race could have been effectively over had Boca Juniors secured three points against second-placed San Lorenzo on Sunday but despite ending the game with nine men, Los Cuervos held on for a 1-1 draw that keeps Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side as firm favourites but still within reach.
A blistering start to the game in the Nuevo Gasómetro saw Rubén Botta give San Lorenzo a fourth-minute lead when a corner fell to the former Inter Milan midfielder and his low shot deflected past Agustín Rossi.
However, the action went back and forth at an intense pace and after Boca’s returning captain Pablo Pérez was forced off prematurely through a recurrence of his injury, the visitors were level. Leonardo Jara’s cross from the right found an unmarked Carlos Tevez in the six-yard box and the forward headed in off the underside of the crossbar, despite Nicolás Navarro’s best efforts to claw it back, for his first goal since coming back from China.
The tempo barely dropped after the two goals in the opening quarter of an hour and both goalkeepers were forced into action but before the half time whistle, momentum swung in Boca’s favour as Facundo Quignón was shown a second yellow card for a foolish challenge on Tevez.
Understandably Boca began to see more of the ball in the second half and Nahitan Nández brushed the post with a near post header but San Lorenzo defended superbly. None more so than Fabricio Coloccini, who returned to the starting eleven after being frozen out under Diego Aguirre.
San Lorenzo’s task became even more difficult in the 82nd minute when a collision between Gabriel Rojas and Wilmar Barrios saw the San Lorenzo harshly given his second yellow and for the second week running, Los Cuervos would be finishing a game with nine men.
Despite this advantage in the closing stages, Boca couldn’t take advantage and the game’s real flashpoint came in stoppage time. Former San Lorenzo favourite and recent Boca signing Emmanuel Mas burst into the penalty area and tumbled under the challenge of Fernando Belluschi. Boca were adamant they had a penalty, San Lorenzo fumed over an alleged dive and fortunately referee Silvio Trucco agreed.
There was contact, whether or not it was inches outside the penalty area, and perhaps Mas’ theatrical fall in the dying seconds didn’t help but the sense of injustice over decisions throughout the 90 minutes prompted both sets of players to react with anger at full time.
Boca maintain their six-point lead at the top and will still take some stopping but San Lorenzo showed plenty of fight and will not let it slip away lightly.
San Lorenzo 1 – 1 Boca Juniors
A little later in Avellaneda and Racing Club responded perfectly to last weekend’s defeat to Unión with a thumping win over Huracán thanks to the sheer brilliance of Lautaro Martínez.
With Jorge Sampaoli and a delegation from Inter Milan in attendance, Argentina’s brightest talent struck a memorable hat-trick that may well have earned the 20-year-old a place in the Albiceleste squad and left the Italian giants reaching immediately for the chequebook.
Racing started brightly and after eleven minutes, Martínez announced himself on the game, cutting inside onto his left foot and drilling a fierce shot inside the far post.
Diego González rattled the post but the home side didn’t have to wait long for a second when Martínez tempted Adrián Calello into a tackle and tripped under his mistimed attempt, allowing Lisandro López to double the lead from the spot.
Eduardo Coudet’s side were rampant and with Martínez in this mood, the young striker couldn’t be given an inch. Huracán gave him a little more than that and on the stroke of half time a loose ball was rifled into the bottom corner from just inside the penalty area.
Huracán tried to find a way back into the game after half time but any hopes were extinguished in the 77th minute when substitute Ricardo Centurión led the counter attack, fed Martínez and with his other foot blasted the ball past Marcos Díaz for a hat-trick.
Martínez’s talent has been no secret in Argentina for the best part of two years and his new contract was signed with an imminent move to Europe in mind but with Sampaoli possibly set to hand him an international debut, Inter will do well to secure his signature as soon as possible.
Racing may not be able to keep the 20-year-old beyond June but Martínez could score a hatful between now and then and be on the plane to Russia with Argentina.
Racing Club 4 – 0 Huracán