Only two remain in the title race regardless of what is mathematically possible and while River Plate continue on their path towards a first league title under Marcelo Gallardo, old rivals Boca Juniors will ensure that the Millonarios are pushed all the way.
Banfield were the visitors to the Monumental on Sunday evening and despite a storm hitting during the second half, River held on for a deserved fifth consecutive win.
Matías Suárez headed River in front early after some fine work by Gonzalo Montiel down the right and it should have been far more comfortable when former River defender Luciano Lollo was penalised for handball. Superliga leading scorer Rafael Santos Borré stepped up but the crossbar denied the Colombian his twelfth goal of the season and River’s lead remained at one.
Banfield posed almost no threat but may feel that River were a little fortunate only to have Lucas Martínez Quarta and Matías Suárez booked for late challenges that on another day could have been more harshly dealt with by referee Fernando Rapallini.
River’s domination continued after the break with Santos Borré again hitting the woodwork and even when the home side did hit the target they found Banfield goalkeeper Mauricio Arboleda in fine form.
There was a late scare in the driving rain as Daniel Osvaldo came off the bench for his Banfield debut and had Franco Armani scrambling with an audacious lob attempt.
River secured the win and are now three games from the title. Seven points would do it and with that in sight it would be a huge upset if the Superliga was to slip through their fingers.
River Plate 0 – 1 Banfield
Boca Juniors will not make it easy for River and a 4-0 win over Central Córdoba in Santiago del Estero swiftly reduced the gap back to three points.
A potentially tricky trip to the sweltering north, it took only four minutes for Boca to lead, Carlos Tevez pouncing on an underhit backpass by former Boca midfielder Marcelo Meli to round Diego Rodríguez and roll in the opener.
Central Córdoba lacked the cutting edge to find a way back and midway through the first half were punished on the counter with Eduardo Salvio eventually firing Boca two in front.
Tevez saw a penalty saved before the break but didn’t take long after the break to add Boca’s third and minutes later despite clearly being offside Sebastián Villa tapped in a fourth.
Another penalty presented Boca with the chance to chalk up a fifth. Tevez opted not to go his hat-trick following his prior miss only for Franco Soldano to suffer the same fate, Diego Rodríguez guessing correctly and making a fine stop.
It didn’t matter and although Boca’s return to form may have come a little too late, Miguel Ángel Russo’s side will ensure that the title race goes to the wire. One defeat for River and a three more wins for Boca would set up an explosive title decider.
Central Córdoba 0 – 4 Boca Juniors
Elsewhere, Lanús climbed to fourth after a 1-1 draw with Newell’s Old Boys in La Fortaleza.
After a first half of few clear chances, Newell’s led just before the hour mark, Sebastián Palacios slotting in after Pablo Pérez’s initial shot had been saved.
The lead though lasted only a few minutes. Cristian Lema scythed down Lautaro Acosta and José Sand made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Lanús remain on course for Copa Libertadores qualification and while Newell’s have flirted with the relegation battle, La Lepra are well placed for at least a Copa Sudamericana spot.