After three consecutive Copa Argentina final defeats within the last four years, Rosario Central could have been excused for fearing the worst when Gimnasia forced this year’s tournament centrepiece to penalties in Mendoza. On this occasion however, there was to be no repeat. El Canalla kept their cool, Gimnasia lost theirs and when Matías Caruzzo tucked away the decisive spot-kick, Central were finally crowned champions.
It’s difficult to say that Central don’t deserve it after the heartache of those defeats hanging over them but for Gimnasia, who dispatch of both Boca Juniors and River Plate en route to the final in a year of upsets, this will surely be a missed opportunity that may not come around again for a long time.
Neither side have been particularly impressive in the league and before the Superliga takes a break after this weekend for the hot Argentinian summer, the Copa was a chance to end the year on the ultimate high.
When Fernando Zampedri managed to pounce on the rebound of his own shot that had come back off the post to bundle Central ahead after 19 minutes it looked as though perhaps the club’s luck had turned.
But it wouldn’t be the Copa Argentina without a little bit of suffering for Central and so shortly after half time Gimnasia were level. Nicking possession from Leonardo Gil in midfield, El Lobo countered at speed and Lorenzo Faravelli superbly volleyed past Jeremías Ledesma.
An almost point-blank Ledesma save to deny Santiago Silva late on preserved the draw and with no extra-time, the final was to be decided at the penalty spot.
The tone was set from the off. The almost unflappable Néstor Ortigoza stepped up first for Central and stroked the ball past Alexis Martín Arias while the hotheaded Santiago Silva blazed Gimnasia’s way over the bar.
When Marco Ruben scored next for El Canalla and Ledesma followed it with a save from Manuel Guanini, Central could taste victory. Jan Carlos Hurtado did eventually score for Gimnasia but when Matías Caruzzo converted Central’s fourth, the cup was finally heading back to Rosario.
A first title for Central since the 1995 Copa CONMEBOL and importantly a place in the 2019 Copa Libertadores makes all the poor form over the year worth while and gives plenty to look forward to.