Any suggestion that Boca Juniors and River Plate would be sacrificing the Superclásico in favour of this week’s Copa Libertadores semi-finals proved unfounded as the two sides battled to an entertaining 2-2 draw on Saturday night. Four goals and two red cards meant a share of the points as the two rivals remain at the top of Zona Campeonato A with just one game left to play.
Much of the talk in the buildup to Saturday’s Superclásico had been that it would be Marcelo Gallardo most likely to rest players ahead of a big Libertadores week and yet it was counterpart Miguel Ángel Russo who arguably made more changes with Carlos Tevez, Eduardo Salvio and Lisandro López all on the bench.
With Enzo Pérez back in the River midfield it was the visitors who dominated possession but Boca who posed the greater goal threat on the counter and it took only nine minutes for the Xeneizes to find the breakthrough. Emmanuel Mas, in for Frank Fabra at left-back, produced a wonderful pass in behind the River backline and Ramón Ábila finished past Franco Armani.
River came close to an equaliser when Jorge Carrascal rattled the woodwork and could be excused for wondering if their luck was out when Boca midfielder Jorman Campuzano avoided a red card for a clear elbow on the Colombian before the break.
Thankfully Campuzano’s recklessness meant he didn’t avoid punishment for long and another wild forearm saw referee Fernando Rapallini finally show a second yellow card.
Down to ten men and with Ábila wasting a golden opportunity to double the lead when squaring the ball would have given Mauro Zárate the simplest of tap-ins, the game swung in River’s direction.
Substitute Federico Girotti headed his second senior goal to equalise and minutes later Rafael Santos Borré put River in front.
If the first red card changed the game then so too did Enzo Pérez’s second yellow card. The River captain’s late challenge on Nicolás Capaldo earned him his marching orders moments after his side had taken the lead and with it handed the initiative back to Boca.
An initiative taken full advantage of five minutes from time when Carlos Tevez slipped in Sebastián Villa for the Colombian to delicately lift the ball over Armani.
The result leaves both teams locked at the top of the group and while Argentinos Juniors, Independiente and Huracán will be hoping to close the gap, the Copa Diego Maradona finalists from Group A will still likely be either Boca or River. For now their focus shifts to Libertadores semi-finals against Santos and Palmeiras.
Earlier in Zona Complementación A, Rosario Central all but sealed their place in the final with a 3-0 win over Copa Sudamericana semi-finalists Defensa y Justicia.
With that match against Chilean club Coquimbo Unido to come Hernán Crespo selected a much changed starting eleven in Rosario and although teenager Maximiliano Luayza hit the woodwork during a bright start, Joaquín Laso headed Central into a first half lead.
Nahuel Gallardo’s clumsy challenge on Lucas Gamba allowed Emiliano Vecchio to score his fifth goal of the tournament to double the lead and the points were wrapped up in stoppage time. Francesco Lo Celso’s superb strike from distance, the 20-year-old’s first senior goal, made it three and with such a superior goal difference it would take a number of surprise results if Central are not in the Complementación final in a couple of weeks.