Racing Club remain Superliga title favourites but we have a real race on our hands after River Plate delivered the type of emphatic display that eliminated Eduardo Coudet’s side in the last 16 of the Copa Libertadores last year and may yet create some doubt in the minds of La Academia.
Back in August River romped to a 3-0 win over Racing at the Monumental en route to lifting the Libertadores but since then Coudet’s side have been imperious in the league and with only one defeat have been the league’s pace setters ever since. A return to Belgrano and a meeting with a recently revitalised River was a significant test of Racing’s title credentials but just like six months ago, the visitors came up well short.
Rafael Santos Borré had already spurned two good opportunities when the deadlock was broken in the most spectacular fashion. Juan Fernando Quintero and his wand of a left foot have demonstrated on numerous occasions that they don’t really belong at this level and when the Colombian whipped a free-kick from wide on the right into the top corner it was another clear example of the quality that should be lighting up one of Europe’s top leagues.
A one-goal advantage was the least River deserved at the break but Marcelo Gallardo’s side didn’t have to wait long for another. Santos Borré had wasted a third opportunity after Quintero’s opener and raced in behind the flat Racing defence once more minutes into the second half. On this occasion Renzo Saravia’s last ditch tackle denied the Colombian but Milton Casco followed up and his shot deflected off Alejandro Donatti into the net.
At this point Eduardo Coudet turned to a rather upset Ricardo Centurión, not trusted from the start after his red card at the Monumental last year, but after their visible disagreement on the touchline it made little difference on the pitch.
Racing ended the game with ten men as Augusto Solari picked up a second yellow card and River comfortably held on for the points. Defensa y Justicia can move level at the top on Monday evening and with only seven matches remaining, things are looking interesting at the top.
River Plate 2 – 0 Racing Club
Having seen Racing drop points, Boca Juniors may still have fancied their outside chance of closing the gap. After all, victory would have seen the defending champions move eight points behind with a game still in-hand. However, not a single slip up could really be afforded and so Federico Lértora’s 81st minute equaliser for Belgrano may have already scuppered those plans.
The home side didn’t give the appearance of a team on the brink of relegation but when their lively start was curtailed by Lisandro López’s headed opener the assumption was that Boca would be leaving Córdoba with the points.
However, Belgrano continued to play with a belief that not all was lost and only a superb stop by Esteban Andrade denied them an equaliser before the break. With Boca unable to find a second and the home side continuing to cause problems it was no real surprise when Lértora struck ten minutes from time – the midfielder’s firmly struck volley from the edge of the box this time leaving Andrade no chance.
Clinging on for the point Belgrano saw Juan Patiño sent off late on and from the free-kick that saw the Paraguayan given his matching orders, Cristian Pavón hit the crossbar but the home side held on. A point gained that in isolation does little to help El Pirata but did show the first signs that Diego Osella’s side are up for the fight.
Belgrano 1 – 1 Boca Juniors
San Martín de Tucumán remain deep in relegation trouble after defeat to Godoy Cruz on Sunday afternoon plunged Walter Coyette’s side to the foot of the promedio.
Three straight defeats had left new Godoy Cruz boss Marcelo Gómez also desperate for a first win and thanks in part to two Santiago García penalties, El Tomba managed it. Juan Martín Lucero tripped by goalkeeper Jorge Carranza saw García slot in the opener and although Claudio Bieler poked an equaliser, El Morro would restore the advantage. The Uruguayan was pulled back by Lucas Acevedo and after the San Martín defender was sent off, García rolled in his second goal from the spot.
A superb Rodrigo Gómez free-kick would bring ten-man San Martín level with fifteen minutes remaining but it would last only momentarily as substitute Miguel Merentiel ran clear to roll in the winner.
Godoy Cruz 3 – 2 San Martín de Tucumán
And finally in Rosario, where the city ground to a halt once more for the latest instalment of the Clásico. While the atmosphere at the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa didn’t disappoint, as is all too common in these parts, the action on the pitch failed to live up to expectation.
Newell’s centre forward Luis Leal saw a header saved by Jeremías Ledesma early on but neither side could really carve out any clear chance and it wasn’t until after the break that Rosario Central began to pose a greater threat.
A tremendous save from Alan Aguerre denied Germán Herrera and a goalline clearance by Mariano Bittolo ensured Newell’s held for a point.