Champions Racing Club were presumably hoping to make the most of their free schedule this year to put some distance between themselves and rivals distracted by continental competition before they themselves begin a Copa Libertadores campaign in 2020. River Plate were the visitors to the Cilindro on Saturday evening days before their vital Libertadores quarter-final but there were little signs of that as Marcelo Gallardo’s side inflicted a humiliating 6-1 defeat on La Academia.
The best defence in the league last season Racing left all competition in their wake but Eduardo Coudet’s side were a collective mess on Saturday evening and River ran riot to devastating effect.
It didn’t look that way after only a few minutes when Gonzalo Montiel gave possession away cheaply down the River right allowing Alexis Soto to cross, Lisandro López to astutely dummy and Augusto Solari to nip in unmarked to slot past Franco Armani.
With Racing ahead early it could easily have been another evening in which Gallardo allowed the league to pass him by focused instead on the Libertadores obsession like in most previous years. The response on the pitch said otherwise.
River had already pulled and probed the Racing backline and when Rafael Santos Borré ran clear of a static defence to slot in an equaliser it sparked a remarkable three-minute spell in which Los Millonarios scored as many goals and effectively killed the game.
Seconds later Matías Suárez got in behind and squared for Santos Borré to roll in a second and with Racing still shell-shocked Suárez drilled in a third. Less than three minutes between all three first half goals.
Half time should have brought some respite and a moment for Racing to regroup but instead minutes after the restart Leonardo Sigali lunged in on Suárez and Patricio Loustau went straight for the red card.
Down to ten men things got increasingly ugly for the home side. Iván Pillud dawdling on the ball in the penalty box pulled back Nacho Fernández to gift a spot-kick and the midfielder got up to smash a fourth past Gabriel Arias.
Substitute Lucas Pratto pulled the ball back for Nicolás de la Cruz to tuck in a fifth and minutes later Ignacio Scocco marked his return from injury with a superb header. Not since 1943 had River beaten Racing by five goals and with twenty minutes still remaining it looked like Los Millonarios could score as many as they desired.
Thankfully for Racing it ended there but while the indication is that River may finally challenge for the league title despite their Libertadores commitments, Coudet has a few concerns with his side. Out of the Copa Argentina to Boca Unidos and without a win in the opening three rounds, La Academia need to rediscover their form fast.
Racing Club 1 – 6 River Plate
As surprising as Racing’s difficulty in winning games is Newell’s Old Boys fine start to the start to the campaign. Frank Kudelka’s side picked up a deserved second three points of the season from the visit of Unión to maintain a 100% record.
Facundo Nadalín’s volley in a crowded penalty area wasn’t the sweetest of strikes but it bobbled up and away from goalkeeper Sebastián Moyano and a defender on the goal-line.
Unión had never really looked like getting past an impressive Newell’s central defensive pairing of Cristian Lema and Santiago Gentiletti and eight minutes from time, Lucas Albertengo side-stepped Moyano to add a second. Two goals in two for Albertengo, whose career had appeared to be grinding to a halt in recent years, and a defence that is yet to concede suggest La Lepra are more than prepared for the relegation battle.
City rivals Rosario Central also look better equipped than recent years to avoid the drop but did see a two-goal lead evaporate against San Lorenzo. Regardless, a point on the road and seven points from a possible nine not to be dismissed by El Canalla despite still sitting in the bottom three.
Claudio Riaño heading Central in front and Ciro Rius doubling that lead after 21 minutes had the visitors in control but also served to jolt San Lorenzo to life. Almost immediately Fernando Belluschi pulled one back with his long range effort sneaking low past Jeremías Ledesma and in off the post.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side should have been level on the half hour mark, recent signing Adam Bareiro winning a penalty after having his shirt pulled only for the Paraguayan to chip a woeful panenka attempt over the crossbar.
However, there was still time for Bruno Pittón to flick Belluschi’s free-kick into the net for a first half equaliser and from that point San Lorenzo would have fancied their chance to take all three points.
Perhaps they should have done. Bareiro heading against the post with the goal gaping and Nahuel Barrios tricking his way into the box to hit the upright from an acute angle. And yet Central could have snatched it with the last kick of the game, Sebastián Ribas failing to divert the ball into the net from just yards out and in doing so ensuring a share of the spoils.
Both sides remain unbeaten and sit with River at the top on seven points – a position much improved on disastrous campaigns last season.