There will be plenty of questions asked at Independiente over the coming weeks as a disappointing season came to an end on Sunday evening against Argentinos Juniors. A seventh placed finish in the Superliga was supposed to be failure enough for El Rojo but a lacklustre first round exit to a side who finished bottom of the regular season table will cause concern at the Estadio Libertadores de América.
The decline of Ariel Holan’s side from the one that lifted the Copa Sudamericana less than 18 months ago is quite apparent and after a number of failed new signings, Independiente’s struggles this season culminated in Sunday’s 4-3 aggregate defeat to Argentinos Juniors.
A poor performance in La Paternal last week was perhaps fortunate to end 3-2 and with the away goals Independiente were confident that an improved display back in Avellaneda would be enough. However, another drab display saw Damián Batallini volley an exquisite equaliser from an Argentinos corner 15 minutes from time and that was enough for Los Bichos to hold on to their first leg advantage.
It had looked like Independiente may sneak through when Pablo Pérez forced a controversial opener just after half time, the midfielder following up from a suspiciously offside looking Guillermo Burdisso heading against the post. Argentinos hadn’t tested Martín Campaña a great deal but with Burdisso ordered off the field for the second time to have a cut on his head dealt with, Batallini struck the decisive goal.
A scrappy end to the game saw Lucas Chaves make two outstanding saves to deny Independiente a late winner but it would hardly have been deserved. Ariel Holan will now come under greater scrutiny and an important couple of months to rebuild will be vital as Argentinos Juniors move on to face San Lorenzo in the last 16.
Independiente 1 – 1 Argentinos Juniors (AGG 3-4)
Already relegated Tigre’s top flight football appeared to be over on Sunday afternoon when Colón raced into a two-goal lead in Victoria but Néstor Gorosito’s side showed the fight that almost kept them up to turn things around and progress to the next round.
A stunning first-time finish by Nicolás Leguizamón and another from Cristian Bernardi gave Colón a deserved lead and after the goalless first leg in Santa Fe, complete control in the tie.
Tigre, in need of three unanswered goals, were thrown a lifeline before the break when a soft penalty for handball allowed Lucas Janson to reduce the deficit. Matías Pérez Acuña’s looping header pulled Tigre level only before the hour mark for that momentum to be immediately stunted by Alexis Niz’s red card.
However, a second penalty for a pull on Federico González saw substitute Carlos Luna smash in an 81st minute winner.
Tigre 3 – 2 Colón (AGG 3-2)
Unión lie ahead for Tigre after Leonardo Madelón’s side proved too strong for San Martín de Tucumán.
The 1-1 draw in the first leg had given Caruso Lombardi’s relegated side hope but that was swiftly extinguished by Javier Méndez firing in from the edge of the box after 20 minutes.
An incorrect offside decision had denied Unión a second before half time but they didn’t have to wait long after the break for Nicolás Mazzola to tap in from close range. San Martín were themselves the victims of poor officiating and it cost them a way back into the tie before Franco Troyansky’s low shot three minutes from time wrapped up the win.
Unión 3 – 0 San Martín de Tucumán (AGG 4-1)
And Gimnasia complete the last 16 after a roaring comeback with ten men saw Newell’s Old Boys eliminated in Rosario.
Following on from a 1-0 win in La Plata, when Maxi Rodríguez flicked Newell’s ahead on Sunday and Gimnasia had Lorenzo Faravelli sent off before half time, La Lepra looked certain to be lining up against Defensa y Justicia in the last 16.
Gimnasia have struggled for goals all season and like Newell’s will begin next season in the thick of the relegation battle so the prospect of ten men finding the required goals looked unlikely. Yet there was an uncharacteristic belief in the visitors after half time and when Santiago Silva poked in from close range, Gimnasia sensed a way back.
The tricky Jan Hurtado was causing problems and having gone close himself to an equaliser, saw Gonzalo Piovi rifle a shot past Alan Aguerre to give Gimnasia the advantage on away goals. Newell’s were in disarray and a handball against Leonel Ferroni allowed Silva to clip in a cheeky third from the penalty spot to seal the win.
Newell’s Old Boys 1 – 3 Gimnasia (AGG 2-3)
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