Boca Juniors should really have the title sewn up already but Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side continue to stumble in their defence after slipping to defeat away to Independiente.
All the post-match discussion may have been about Boca’s injury time penalty claim after the ball appeared to hit Gonzalo Verón’s arm but there is no getting around the fact that the reigning champions are out of form and now nervously looking over their shoulders.
Both sides were already without key players as the toll of playing Copa Libertadores has begun to take its toll but that only got worse during an opening 45 minutes that saw Independiente lose Fabricio Bustos and his right-back replacement Jonás Gutiérrez and Boca Juniors see midfielder Wilmar Barrios limp off.
Neither side had fashioned a really clear opening in that first half but it was Independiente that started the second better and after two penalty claims of their own, the breakthrough came.
Nicolás Figal won possession in the Independiente half, rolled the ball to Juan Sánchez Miño and as El Rojo countered at speed the former Boca utility player produced an outstanding through-ball for Martín Benítez, who slotted past Agustín Rossi.
With Godoy Cruz winning on Saturday, Godoy Cruz knew that defeat would see their lead at the top cut to four points but without the likes of Darío Benedetto, Carlos Tevez and Edwin Cardona it was left to an out of sorts Cristian Pavón to try and salvage something.
Boca increased the pressure and Ramón Abila struck the woodwork before seeing a header saved by Martín Campaña but there was no coherent structure to the attacks.
Verón’s wayward arm could have cost Independiente but Ariel Penal waved away Boca’s penalty claims and as captain Pablo Pérez got a little too agitated in his remonstrations, the referee brandished a second yellow.
Independiente held on for an important three points and climbed to third as Ariel Holan’s wounded squad prepare for Wednesday’s visit of Corinthians and while Boca remain in the driving seat, things are getting a little nervier than expected with four games remaining.
Independiente 1 – 0 Boca Juniors
Earlier in El Monumental, River Plate chalked up a fifth straight Superliga win after two goals in two second half minutes sealed victory over Rosario Central.
Ignacio Fernández had come closest to giving River a first half lead, drawing a tremendous stop by Jeremías Ledesma and as the game went on, Los Millonarios’ superiority increased.
Franco Armani was drawn into a flying save as Central made a rare attempt on goal and after keeping the scores level, River led soon after.
Rafael Santos Borré and Juan Fernando Quintero had been introduced as second half substitutes and had a big impact on both goals. Quintero’s outside of the boot pass found Lucas Pratto and his low cross-cum-shot was expertly poached by the alert Santos Borré.
Almost immediately from the restart, River attacked again and this time Quintero fed Santos Borré for the Colombian to repay the favour to Lucas Pratto.
River appear well and truly over their lull and having rested players, Marcelo Gallardo can now prepare for Thursday’s trip to Emelec in the Copa Libertadores.
River Plate 2 – 0 Rosario Central