Boca Juniors have done their best to allow others into the title race but on Sunday surely closed the door for good with victory over Newell’s Old Boys in La Bombonera.
The defending champions were still not particularly impressive but were grateful to the contribution of Cristian Pavón, who once more proved the difference on a night where Boca needed some inspiration.
The possibly World Cup-bound, 22-year-old was almost ruled out of the game earlier in the week through injury but Guillermo Barros Schelotto will be relieved that Pavón was fit after his starring role in such an important victory.
Godoy Cruz’s draw on Saturday meant Boca could open a six-point lead with only three games remaining with victory against Newell’s and so when Pavón skipped away down the left past two defenders to square for Ramón Ábila to open the scoring after 26 minutes the relief was clear.
Any remaining nerves were eased shortly after as Ábila headed his second of the game from Leonardo Jara’s cross.
Boca were cruising and even the storm brewing above La Bombonera couldn’t dampen the spirits until a momentary defensive lapse allowed Héctor Fértoli to reduce the deficit before the break.
Barros Schelotto was rightly furious with his side but got the reaction he would have wanted after half time. Carlos Tevez had already gone close when Pavón restored order before the hour mark.
Once again the Argentina forward was released down the left and driving into the penalty box onto his right foot the option to look for Wanchope again was there but instead Pavón unleashed a fierce shot that was in the net before Nelson Ibáñez could react.
Boca could have added more with Julio Buffarini hitting the post late on but the points were all that mattered. Two wins from games against Gimnasia, Unión and Huracán would be enough to lift the title once more.
Boca Juniors 3 – 1 Newell’s Old Boys
Earlier in Sarandí, River Plate chalked up a sixth consecutive Superliga win against already relegated Arsenal.
Despite fielding a largely second-string eleven due to their Copa Libertadores commitments, Marcelo Gallardo’s side had far too much for an Arsenal side that have looked out of their depth in the top flight for at least two years now.
Franco Armani was called into action while the game was still goalless and extended his impressive unbeaten streak but when Exequiel Palacios played a one-two with Rodrigo Mora and slotted River ahead, the game was as good as over.
Luciano Lollo’s header was soon after deflected in off Claudio Corvalán and when Juan Fernando Quintero tapped in a third at the end of swift counter, Arsenal were done.
River could take the foot off the gas and cruised through to full-time with Armani taking his time without conceding a goal to well over 500 minutes, and in the process already breaking Marcelo Barovero’s record.
Automatic qualification for the 2019 Copa Libertadores is and has been for a long time virtually out of the reach but as the Superliga’s form side, River look strong bets to at least have Copa Sudamericana football.