The relegation battle looks set to go to the wire but Sunday evening produced the first casualty as a 4-1 Boca Juniors win in Tucumán sent San Martín swiftly back to the B Nacional.
Victory over Huracán last week had breathed hope into San Martín’s survival hopes but even the arrival of relegation battle expert Ricardo Caruso Lombardi as manager couldn’t save the club from the drop.
When Luciano Pons bundled San Martín ahead against Boca midway through the first half and only a narrow offside denied a second, Caruso might have thought another miraculous escape was on the cards but Ramón Ábila slid in an equaliser before half time and paved the way for an improved Boca second half.
Virtually frozen out under Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the arrival of Gustavo Alfaro has given Emanuel Reynoso a new lease of life and the 23-year-old put Boca in front with a remarkable solo effort. Darting forward from midfield, Reynoso looked to be pushed away from goal before producing a superb lob over Jorge Carranza.
A draw would have been enough to at least delay San Martín’s relegation but after Adrián Arregui headed against the woodwork at one end and Lisandro López nodded a third for Boca at the other, the writing was on the wall.
Nahitán Nández added a late fourth and with it San Martín were down. Victory for Boca secured a place in the 2020 Copa Libertadores with a place in the top four guaranteed.
San Martín de Tucumán 1 – 4 Boca Juniors
Rivals River Plate took a step towards the Copa Libertadores too with victory over Independiente at the Monumental.
Martín Campaña and Franco Armani had been called into action at either end before River took a deserved lead just before the hour mark, youngster Julián Alvarez spinning to volley the opener just moments after coming on. The 19-year-old providing a timely lift after Juan Fernando Quintero limped off with what has now been confirmed as a knee ligament injury that will see the Colombian out for a minimum of six months.
The goal proved decisive as Ignacio Scocco doubled the lead from the penalty spot before Lucas Pratto volleyed a rebound past Campaña.
A disastrous second half for Independiente saw Nicolás Figal sent off late on and with defeat El Rojo face a battle to hang on to one of the Copa Sudamericana spots.