While you were out enjoying your Sunday afternoon, the perfect football match was played. Maybe not perfect if you are a fan of either of the teams who both felt frustrated, angry, annoyed, and yet relieved at the same time. It was a match that had everything – 90 plus minutes of goal scoring chances, officiating controversies, and late drama. The match had everything and more. And it all took place in Argentina’s second division, the Primera Nacional.
As I told you a few weeks back, the Primera Nacional is more entertaining than the Superliga. But because I know none of you listened to me and none of you actually watched this match, we are now going to watch it together and relive what may go down as the match of the season: Belgrano vs Independiente Rivadavia
Belgrano was hosting Independiente Rivadavia in Córdoba on hot Sunday afternoon. Both clubs have been competitive but failed to meet the fan’s expectations. Belgrano entered the match with only eight points from the first six matches which put them outside of the potential promotion spots. Independiente had nine points from the first six but had blown several opportunities to grab more points and be near the top of the league. The club from Mendoza had scored 12 goals but conceded 13. Belgrano on the other hand had struggled to score goals – only six, half of those coming in one match.
The team from Alberdi was still undefeated at home and would once again be playing in front of a sold-out stadium. Their fans, fueled by Fernet and Coke, would be doing their part to help El Pirata get back to winning ways. Making his debut for El Celeste would also be Bruno Amione, a 17-year-old centerback who played a key role in Argentina’s U17 Sudamericano championship.
1:08 – A harmless ball is played into the box. Belgrano’s keeper Cesar Rigamontti picks it up, bounces it a few times and rolls it out to the left side of the box to the feet of the young Amione. The centerback feels the pressure starting to come and attempts a pass back to the keeper. The ball is heavy and runs past the reach of Riggamonti to the feet of La Lepra’s Gonzalo Klusener who immediately puts a shot on target. Belgrano’s keeper reacted slower than molasses and let the ball sneak under him at the near post – after just 80 seconds, Belgrano 0 – Independiente Rivadavia 1.
24:14 – Belgrano still failing to find their footing in the match is playing out from the back and passes a ball to the middle of the pitch to their reliable #5, Hernan Bernadello. Immediately he gets swarmed and his heavy touch puts the ball right into the path of La Lepra’s Sergio González. One touch into the half circle and González fired a laser into the back of the net. Belgrano 0 – Independiente Rivadavia 2
Belgrano makes two modifications at half including replacing Martin Rivero, a second defensive-minded midfielder, in favor of a second striker, Gonzalo Lencina. The formation moves from a 4-1-4-1 to a 4-4-2. Independiente continues with the same 11 from the first half.
0:58 – A long throw-in for Independiente leads to another Belgrano defensive mistake. González grabs the ball just outside the box and passes it to a wide open Klusener at the top of the area. The shot sails harmlessly over the box but immediately Belgrano’s poor defending opens another clear chance for the visitors.
12:50 – A throw-in from the left side of the pitch for Independiente nearly goes out of play at the by-line but instead is centered back into the box by González to a wide-open Klusener who attempts to slot in another goal from 10 yards out. Belgrano’s keeper barely gets his toes to the ball and prevents a second goal for Independiente’s number 9.
24:01 – Once again, a throw-in leads to a goal scoring opportunity, this time for Belgrano. One of the half-time subs Maxi Lugo launches the ball over the defense and into the path of the other sub Gonzalo Lencina. Before Lencina can even touch the ball, he is bailed over by a defender who knocks him to the ground in the box. PENALTY. Rodrigo Colombo was also given a yellow card for the foul in the box.
25:45 – Belgrano’s leading goal scorer Pablo Vegetti steps to the spot and puts it into the net sending the keeper the wrong way. Belgrano 1 – Independiente Rivadavia 2
It took an hour of play, but the goal finally woke Belgrano up. Up to this point, things have been pretty standard, but strap yourself in for some of the craziest 20 minutes of football you’ll ever see.
27:42 – Belgrano’s right-back Juan Barinaga plays a long ball down the field to Pablo Vegetti who has a chance to go 1v1 with the keeper. As he reached the ball he is dragged down by Colombo. A second yellow card. Colombo sees red and is sent off for the remainder of the match – La Lepra is obligated to finish a man down.
29:40 – The ensuing free kick is taken by Maxi Lugo whose left foot puts a dangerous ball on target, but it is saved by Cristian Aracena.
39:04 – Long ball is beautifully controlled by Cristian Techera who send a pass into the box right into the path of both Belgrano strikers. Lencina has a perfect angle to put his head to the ball, but it first reaches the outstretched foot of Vegetti. What appeared to be a goal and was probably celebrated by a few Piratas goes just left of mark.
39:45 – Lencina somehow controls the ball and prevents it from going out. He puts the ball onto his right foot and sends in a gorgeous cross that reaches the head of El Toro Vegetti. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!! Belgrano 2 – Independiente Rivadavia 2
El Pirata has not trailed in a match and turned it around to win since September 2017. Could that poor streak finally be broken?
42:00 – Belgrano’s most explosive player Nahuel Lujan receives the ball near midfield and decides to take on La Lepra’s entire defense. His run culminates just inside the box when he sends in a low left-footed cross to Vegetti who converts his third goal of the match. But… OFFSIDES. Vegetti was a good two yards beyond the defense. He didn’t realize the goal was disallowed until he was already celebrating on the fence with the fans.
45:00 – Seven minutes get added for stoppage time.
51:50 – With just 10 seconds left before the seven additional minutes expire, Belgrano received the ball on their side of the pitch. They sent the ball down the pitch and Lujan and Techera work a couple of give-and-goes. The ball fell to a wide-open Lujan who put all his power into the shot. CROSSBAR. The ball ricocheted down and hopped up to the head of Vegetti who once again put the ball into the net. OFFSIDES. A second game-winning goal disallowed. This one, much closer and much more controversial. If he was offsides, it was by a toe. A game winning goal just before the final whistle blew was not to be.
The match finished 2-2. Both teams and fanbases felt like they lost two points. While painful for anyone with a horse in the race, for any lover of football, it was one of the most entertaining matches you’ll ever witness.