In 2018 Arsenal’s 16-year stint in the top flight came to an end. With club founder and former AFA president Julio Grondona watching over the club since its inception in 1957, their rise and eventual success at the highest level came as little surprise and so too did their swift decline following the death of Argentine football’s godfather in 2014.
Within three years Arsenal were battling relegation and in April 2018 the days of Primera football in Sarandí were over. Returing back to that level in the absence of their benefactor was going to be a new challenge altogether.
And yet one year on and somewhat against the odds, El Viaducto are back. Finishing top of the table, level on points with Sarmiento de Junín, a title decider was required and on Sunday afternoon, Leandro Garate’s first half penalty was enough to seal it.
Having required the financial support of agent Christian Bragarnik to stay afloat after relegation and needing to rely on youth products such as Alejo Antilef, Lucas Necul and Sebastián Lomonaco, automatic promotion was not in the plan. But with Sergio Rondina still in charge and those same youth players, along with a few more seasoned campaigners, Arsenal were able to finish the regular season with only four defeats and the best attack in the Nacional B.
Sarmiento, relegated from the Primera in 2017, were able to match them and there was little between the two sides in the Estadio Florencio Sola on Sunday.
A rash challenge by Lucas Landa prompted Néstor Pitana to point to the spot with barely quarter of an hour on the clock and despite Sarmiento’s protests, Garate slotted the ball past Manuel Vicentini.
Both sides would create further chances but with Sarmiento pushing desperately for an equaliser, it became apparent that it perhaps wasn’t to be El Verde’s day. Sebastián Penco putting the ball over the crossbar from three yards out with the goal empty will haunt the veteran striker and the club for years to come and all but sealed Arsenal’s victory.
Rondina’s side held on and with it Arsenal were Primera B Nacional champions. A return to the Superliga will likely prove tough without the protection of Don Julio but the Viaducto are back and Sarandí is celebrating.