With a place in the Copa Libertadores last 16 all but secured Boca Juniors were back to domestic duty on Sunday evening and with victory over Godoy Cruz in Mendoza have one foot also in the quarter finals of the Copa Superliga.
Boca manager Gustavo Alfaro was able to rotate and give starts to academy products Agustín Almendra, Marcelo Weigandt, Nicolás Capaldo and Agustín Obando and it was the latter who played a key role in the visitors breaking the deadlock.
19-year-old Obando, at times a little blinkered out on the left wing, drifted into space centrally and with a deft flick of his boot released Cristian Pavón, another player who could fall into the same category at times, whose finish was emphatic.
Posing a physical threat but failing to take chances, Ramón Ábila was not making the most of his chance to usurp Dario Benedetto as Alfaro’s number nine and eventually Godoy Cruz began to pull and probe Boca in search of an equaliser.
That eventually came on the hour mark when Juan Lucero’s header against the crossbar sparked a goalmouth scramble and either he or strike partner Miguel Merentiel forced the ball over the line.
The goal saw Alfaro turn to Mauro Zárate and Emanuel Reynoso off the bench, two players who are increasingly becoming indispensible in this post-Barros Schelotto era at Boca. Two minutes from time, Zárate crossed to the back post, Ábila kept it in play and Emmanuel Mas headed against the underside of the bar and in, following up to force it home for good measure.
A 2-1 lead ahead of next Sunday’s second leg at La Bombonera will see Boca as firm favourites to book their place in the quarter finals.
Godoy Cruz 1 – 2 Boca Juniors
River Plate still have work to do in their tie against Aldosivi after a somewhat lacklustre display ended in a 1-1 draw in Mar del Plata.
Despite missing key players and taking the opportunity to give Exequiel Palacios a start after his injury layoff, River were on top and Rafael Santos Borré wasted two clear chances before the visitors eventually led. A good cross from the left by Fabricio Angileri on this occasion found the late run of Enzo Pérez and the veteran midfielder expertly flicked the ball beyond Luciano Pocrnjic.
Franco Armani had to remain alert to Aldosivi’s threat and with the lead still only one after Javier Pinola rattled the crossbar, El Tiburón eventually struck back. A swift counter released Facundo Castillón down the left and his ball into the box was volleyed in by Cristian Chávez.
Neither side could muster a winner and will meet again on Friday at the Monumental to settle it.
Aldosivi 1 – 1 River Plate
Earlier, Argentinos Juniors secured a narrow 1-0 win over San Lorenzo at the Estadio Diego Armando Maradona.
Miguel Torrén’s scrappy goal after only seven minutes enough for victory against a San Lorenzo side still dreadfully short of ideas under Jorge Almirón. Progression in the Copa Libertadores may have masked the problem to a degree but one win in 18 domestic fixtures, 13 goals scored in 23 games, a drought of over 300 minutes now and yet to score more than two in a game, the statistics are damning for Almirón.
Argentinos Juniors may regret not taking a greater advantage and could pay the price next Sunday in Bajo Flores.