The biggest story this weekend in Argentine football was actually in Madrid but that didn’t stop the last round of the Superliga before the summer break being played and although River Plate and Boca Juniors will come back strong in 2019, it is another grande leading the way at the close of play. With a couple of surprise contenders and possibly a few reinvigorated giants looking to catch, the title race promises much excitement and the same could be said for matters in the promedio. Significant results this weekend ensured some clubs will have much calmer summer holidays than others…
Aside from their Copa Libertadores exit to River Plate in the last 16, it has been a tremendous year for Racing Club under Eduardo Coudet. The Cilindro is bouncing and with talismanic captain Lisandro López scoring regularly and signed up until 2021, La Academia head into the break six points clear at the top of the table.
López scored the only goal in Sunday’s nervy 1-0 win over San Martín de San Juan to take his season tally to 12 and join Emmanuel Gigliotti at the top of the scoring charts but more importantly Racing ensured that they will be the team to beat in 2019.
Defensa y Justicia could be Racing’s greatest threat which in itself is a huge achievement for Sebastián Beccecece and his relative minnows. El Halcón are still unbeaten in the league and swept aside Colón on Saturday evening thanks to goals from Ciro Rius, 18-year-old Ignacio Aliseda and Gastón Togni to at least keep pace with the leaders. With a game still in-hand, provided the transfer window doesn’t weaken Defensa y Justicia, a three-point deficit isn’t much ground to make up.
Third placed Atlético Tucumán also have a game in-hand, having been scheduled to play Boca Juniors this past weekend and El Decano plus the two Copa Libertadores finalists will still have eyes fixed on Racing when the Superliga resumes in January.
Huracán slipped two points further back after allowing Gimnasia to twice cancel out goals in La Plata to draw 2-2 and Vélez Sarsfield were also unable to take advantage. Gabriel Heinze’s impressive side were down to ten men and trailing Patronato 2-1 in Paraná when one of the stars of the Superliga so far this season Matías Vargas struck twice. However, unable to hold onto the lead, Patronato secured a point in what turned out to be a surprisingly exciting 3-3 draw.
Another side who missed the chance to end the year on a high and ensure they didn’t lose any further ground were Independiente. Ariel Holan’s side have limped to the end of the year after exiting the Copa Libertadores and earned a point away to Godoy Cruz on Saturday thanks to what looks to be a parting gift from Maxi Meza. The midfielder looks set to join Liga MX club Monterrey and his brilliant free-kick meant a share of the points in Mendoza.
And so to matters in the promedio. There was no change in the bottom four but some potentially significant results, starting in Córdoba, where Belgrano suffered the despair of an injury time winner against Tigre. Federico González striking in the 94th minute does little to change the thought that Tigre look anything other than doomed but Belgrano missed a great opportunity for a vital three points and resume 2019 in the red.
San Martín de Tucumán had really turned things around in recent weeks and suddenly survival looked possible but those hopes were derailed somewhat by Newell’s Old Boys on Friday. La Lepra, still without a permanent manager, were not expected to go to the Estadio La Ciudadela and upset San Martín’s fine run but a Francisco Fydriszewski did just that.
With Patronato’s earlier mentioned draw with Vélez, there was no real change but as many as nine teams are still in danger and in need of points in the second half of the campaign.
Lanús are on of those but have gone some way in helping their cause since the appointment of Luis Zubeldía. A Sebastián Ribas double gave El Granate a 2-1 win over Talleres and with reports of club icon Pepe Sand returning, the mood is suddenly a lot brighter at the Fortaleza.
The same can’t be said of Argentinos Juniors, who have won only twice this season, scored an embarrassing five goals, and managed to lose 2-1 to ten-man Aldosivi at home on Sunday. Los Bichos form has completely undone all the hard work of their debut season back in the top flight and whoever is appointed manager over the break has a task to ensure Argentinos don’t sink once more.