Ahead of huge Copa Libertadores last 16 second legs this week, San Lorenzo and Godoy Cruz could probably have done without their Superliga opener but it didn’t prevent a dramatic end to the game that saw El Ciclón win at home for the first time since October 2018 and left the visitors fuming.
It may be the opening weekend of the Superliga season but there is unlikely to be a softer penalty than the one Andrés Merlos awarded in the 90th minute when San Lorenzo defender Gianluca Ferrari tumbled in the box. Former Cuervo Tomás Cardona was adjudged to be the guilty party and after the protests were eventually waved away, substitute Nicolás Blandi slotted in the winner from the spot.
After the dark days with Jorge Almirón in charge, Juan Antonio Pizzi’s return has lifted the club and the academy graduates filling the team are reasons for optimism but it hasn’t all been good news for Blandi, who has dropped down the pecking order under the new coach. The 29-year-old has had to wait his turn and was deservedly rewarded with the match winning moment, something which was roundly celebrated by supporters who remain loyal to Blandi.
The chronic lack of goals and dire football under Almirón were quickly forgotten when Nahuel Barrios fired San Lorenzo in front after only five minutes yet unable to add to that tally, Godoy Cruz were able to gain a foothold.
19-year-old striker Tomás Badaloni tapped in an equaliser finishing off a swift counter shortly after half time and five minutes later the visitors led, Richard Prieto drilling the ball past Nicolás Navarro on the rebound.
Facing yet another league defeat in the Nuevo Gasómetro, Gino Peruzzi nodded San Lorenzo back level 18 minutes from time before Blandi snatched the points from the spot.
San Lorenzo 3 – 2 Godoy Cruz
River Plate were also focused on next week’s Libertadores clash with Cruzeiro and just like San Lorenzo and Godoy Cruz had to settle for a point from their opening against Argentinos Juniors in La Paternal.
A poor first half display saw Argentinos deservedly in front even if the goal owed a lot to good fortune, Damián Batallini’s strike taking a wicked deflection that left Franco Armani wrong-footed.
It wasn’t until the closing 20 minutes or so that River began turning the screw and eventually forced an equaliser. Milton Casco released Rafael Santos Borré and the Colombian substitute crossed for his compatriot Jorge Carrascal to score his first goal for the club.
Matías Suárez saw a shot saved by Lucas Chaves and had a strong penalty appeal waved away and there was a sense that a River winner was imminent before time ran out. Victory in Brazil is now paramount for Marcelo Gallardo to reach the Copa Libertadores quarter-final and should the champions manage that it would appear that the Superliga will once again take a backseat.
Argentinos Juniors 1 – 1 River Plate
The number of relegation places may have been reduced from four to three but that didn’t prevent there being a few important games near the foot of the promedio table.
Gimnasia begin the season in the bottom three and while El Lobo didn’t celebrate victory they did manage to avoid defeat away to rivals Lanús. A Horacio Tijanovich miscue saw Lanús defender Lautaro Valenti open the scoring after 21 minutes and El Granate may well feel they should have been further ahead.
However, Gimnasia found a way back level through Matías García, stealing in behind the flat-footed Gabriel Carrascal to poke in an equaliser. And despite the visitors ending with ten men after Maxi Caire was shown a second yellow card, Gimnasia held on for a point.
Patronato gave their survival hopes an early boost with a win over Colón in Santa Fe. Christian Chimino slid in the only goal on the counter during a first half where the visitors looked far more threatening.
And even after Lautaro Comas was sent off shortly after half time, Colón were unable to take advantage.