As an appetiser for next month’s Copa Libertadores semi-final, Sunday’s Superclásico didn’t exactly whet the appetite for more but in a vibrant Monumental, packed to the rafters with River Plate supporters looking to inflict another blow on their bitter rivals, it was Boca Juniors who departed the happier having frustrated their hosts to an underwhelming draw.
On a glorious day in Buenos Aires with the sun shining on the Monumental the stage was set for the first meeting between the two sides since that fateful Libertadores final in Madrid.
Gustavo Alfaro has replaced Guillermo Barros Schelotto since then and the pragmatic Boca coach set his side up in a manner which suggested the number priority was not to lose rather than take the game to River perhaps an indication of how Boca may approach the Libertadores semi-final first leg in one month. Daniele de Rossi started his first Superclásico in a packed, compact midfield with only Jan Hurtado utilised as a forward and the result was River dominating for large parts.
But for all of River’s possession chances were at a premium and aside from Gonzalo Montiel arriving unmarked at the back post to volley well over the crossbar Esteban Andrada reached half time almost completely untroubled. The result taking the Argentina goalkeeper well beyond Antonio Roma’s club record of minutes since last without conceding.
The biggest talking point of the opening 45 minutes was perhaps whether or not Jan Hurtado should have seen red rather than yellow for a clumsy, late challenge that saw the Boca forward’s studs dig into Paulo Diaz’s knee.
And the second half continued in much the same way. Exequiel Palacios screwing a shot wide, Lucas Martínez Quarta swivelling to fire over the crossbar and then seeing a header saved comfortably by Andrada as River struggled to fashion another like a clear chance.
Boca to this point had only really posed a threat from set-pieces but Alfaro’s side did begin to creep forward and Alexis Mac Allister in a rare foray into the River box rifled a shot across the face of Franco Armani’s goal.
If the Hurtado challenge was the first half’s talking point then River’s penalty shout was the moment in the second 45, Milton Casco going down under the challenge of Nicolás Capaldo but with an inconclusive amount of contact Fernando Rapallini waved it away.
There was still time for Rafael Santos Borré to see a shot saved by Andrada and for substitute Carlos Tevez to bend a free-kick on goal for Armani to tip over but neither side opened up a meaningful opportunity that went down as a miss.
Boca’s game plan would suggest it was mission accomplished and there was more than some truth in the words of Nacho Fernández when he said at full time that only River wanted to win. The neutral will certainly be hoping for more when they do it again in October.