It was almost perfect and although Darío Benedetto’s 77th minute equaliser may have denied Newell’s Old Boys victory, there was much to celebrate for the Newell’s Old Boys supporters packed into the always vibrant Estadio Marcelo Bielsa.
After a couple of difficult years that have seen La Lepra dragged closer to relegation than the days of challenging for honours, this summer carried a new hope in the form of returning hero Maxi Rodríguez. The 38-year-old stepped out on the turf with the captain’s armband once more, after leaving in 2017 to pick up consecutive league titles with Peñarol, and almost led his beloved Newell’s to victory over Boca.
Newell’s certainly didn’t look like a side concerned with relegation and invigorated by the return of Maxi provided Boca’s new manager Gustavo Alfaro with a all manner of problems.
Both sides had already gone close when after 25 minutes Newell’s broke and the Coloso erupted. Rodríguez in space was eventually fed the ball and an unstoppable outside-of-the-boot shot whistled past Esteban Andrade into the net.
Boca still carried a threat but lacked the drive from midfield with Alfaro’s new look double five of Wilmar Barrios and Iván Marcone performing the same function and leaving much of the supposed creativity to the visibly diminished Carlos Tevez.
Only the offside flag denied Newell’s two further goals either side of half time, the first a bicycle kick Mauro Formica and the second an exquisitely worked play finished by Luis Leal, as the home side appeared to be enjoying themselves for the first time in years.
Eventually Alfaro did make changes and after replacing Barrios and Tevez, the equaliser came. Substitute Mauro Zárate burst down the left, stood up a cross and the dangerous Benedetto swept home on the half volley.
Either side could have won it with Leal hitting the post at one end and Cristian Pavon going close at the other before Andrés Merlos called time on a breathless encounter. Alfaro has much to do with Boca while Hector Bidoglio, now three games unbeaten since taken over, has breathed life back into Newell’s with a little help from a cult hero.
Newell’s Old Boys 1 – 1 Boca Juniors
River Plate’s 2019 meanwhile goes from bad to worse as the Copa Libertadores champions suffered a third consecutive defeat since the restart. A third in the Monumental and Sunday’s coming against bottom of the table Patronato, who had won only twice all season previously yet deservedly beat Marcelo Gallardo’s rotated side.
A slow start from River allowed one simple pass to dissect the defence and Patronato’s new signing Gabriel Ávalos to beat Germán Lux for the opener. And with little response from the home side it was Ávalos who rose to meet a cross from the right with a thumping header to double the lead before the break.
Gallardo looked calm as the decorated coach walked to the tunnel but will have been concerned by his side’s lack of quality. A rousing half time speech was expected to wake River but Patronato still looked the more likely next scorers and after 53 minutes another through-ball released Ávalos, who clipped the ball over Lux to complete his hat-trick.
Youngster Cristian Ferreira pulled a goal back with a fine strike from 25 yards but aside from Rafael Santos Borré having a goal ruled out for offside, River’s grandstand finish never appeared.
Starting the year with four games in-hand, River were still considered potential title outsiders but with three of those now wasted, Gallardo is needing to wake-up his side to ensure a top four place.
River Plate 1 – 3 Patronato
Independiente’s hopes of sealing one of those 2020 Copa Libertadores spots are also fading after yet another frustrating draw at the Estadio Libertadores de América prevented El Rojo closing the gap.
Pablo Pérez, the only new signing from a tricky summer window to date, produced a promising debut as Independiente had the better of the opening 45 minutes against Talleres. Although the visitors posed a threat on the counter, Ariel Holan’s side appeared in control and led after ten minutes when Pablo Hernández was pushed over in the box allowing Silvio Romero to score from the penalty spot.
As has so often been the case Independiente failed to capitalise and extend their lead and when Pérez was replaced in the second half, El Rojo lost control in midfield. Another brisk Talleres counter eventually found the lively Sebastián Palacios and the forward drilled the ball low past Martín Campaña.
Out of options in their search for a winner, Independiente’s need for further reinforcements was clear. Cecilio Dominguez was watching from the stands and will help but another is still required if El Rojo are to make moves.
Independiente 1 – 1 Talleres
And in Córdoba, Belgrano began their bid to avoid relegation against Unión with a goalless draw.
There have been plenty of new faces in at the Alberdi this summer and manager Diego Osella had no problem throwing them into action against a Unión side who had been victorious at the Monumental during the week.
Signs of promise perhaps but Belgrano still couldn’t find the net and that will be vital if El Pirata are to remain a Superliga club. Mauricio Cuero was lively on his debut and Marcelo Meli had a strong claim for a penalty waved away by Nazareno Arasa but in truth neither side deserved all three points.