Boca Juniors booked their place in the Copa Diego Maradona final on Saturday night holding off the challenge of Argentinos Juniors with a 2-2 draw in La Paternal as River Plate faltered and slumped to a 2-0 defeat to Independiente.
With the two fierce rivals neck and neck going into these final matches while also looking ahead to next week’s Copa Libertadores semi finals, Boca and River knew that even with that other priority victories were required. Argentinos Juniors were hoping that with those distractions they could profit and leapfrog both.
River’s Libertadores hopes may already be over following Palmeiras’ 3-0 first leg win and so when Diego Sosa brilliantly put Argentinos Juniors ahead against Boca, it was momentarily advantage to Marcelo Gallardo’s side.
In La Paternal the two sides both had chances to top the group, River were hosting an Independiente side already out of the contest and under the interim management of Fernando Berón after Lucas Pusineri left this week. Even with the effects of that defeat to Palmeiras and the return leg just days away, a strong River side were expected to have far too much for El Rojo.
Dazzling teenager Alan Velasco had other plans. Just as Mauro Zárate equalised for Boca in La Paternal, across Buenos Aires in Banfield Velasco twisted away from Leonardo Ponzio and rifled an unstoppable, 25-yard shot past Franco Armani.
It got worse for River before the break and while Velasco was again the architect, the youngster’s second owed as much to Armani. The once dependable goalkeeper, who was at fault against Palmeiras, misjudging the long range effort and allowing the ball to bobble over his body.
The second half was all River but still Gallardo’s side couldn’t find a way past Sebastián Sosa and even when the Uruguayan goalkeeper was beaten Nacho Fernández’s shot came back off the upright.
While River’s frustrations continued, the drama was at the Estadio Diego Armando Maradona. Ramón Ábila put Boca in front on the hour mark to put the Xeneizes in control of the group and yet when Fausto Vera drilled in an 87th minute equaliser it set up a tense finale.
A power outage immediately after only adding to the tension and ensuring a huge amount of added time. A winner for Argentinos Juniors would see them win the group, Boca had to hold firm. And after an agonising ten additional minutes Fernando Espinoza blew for full time and saw Boca through to the final.
After their goalless draw with Santos, Boca remain in a decent position to reach the Libertadores final on Wednesday and could yet start 2021 with a historic double. River Plate supporters will not want to even contemplate that after a miserable week. The only tonic would be somehow overturning the first leg defeat to Palmeiras.
Vélez Sarsfield booked their place in the Complementación final with a 3-2 win over Godoy Cruz after Newell’s Old Boys slipped to defeat away to Racing Club.
Juan Lucero headed Vélez into an early lead only for Martín Ojeda to volley Godoy Cruz almost immediately level and it took a huge slice of luck for the home team to restore their lead, Hernán De La Fuente’s shot taking a huge deflection of Luciano Pizarro.
Godoy Cruz levelled for the second time thanks to a Leonel González penalty before Vélez led for the third time, youngster Agustín Mulet heading his first senior goal.
It ended ten versus ten after Alan Cantero and Cristian Tarragona were both sent off for clumsy challenges but Vélez held on for the win.
Even that might not have been enough had Newell’s picked up the victory they needed in Avellaneda.
Sebastián Palacios, on loan from Independiente, gave Newell’s the perfect start just before the half hour mark but a quick fire brace from Héctor Fértoli against his former club turned things round for Racing.
Newell’s should probably have been awarded a penalty after the break when Palacios was brought down and young midfielder Juan Sforza struck the underside of the bar yet it was Racing that found the net, the ball fortuitously falling for captain Lisandro López who smashed the ball past Ramiro Macagno from outside the box.
Victory for Racing at least gave a positive end to what has been a poor tournament and allowed manager Sebastián Beccacece to sign off with three points. La Academia now have some important decisions to make with uncertain times ahead.
Vélez will almost certainly meet Rosario Central in the Complementación final. The Canalla lost 2-0 to Lanús but can only be denied by Defensa y Justicia beating Aldosivi in the game remaining by six goals.
Academy products Franco Orozco and José López gave Lanús a two-goal first half lead and Central never recovered. Lanús may not have been able to catch Central in the group but were able to rest players ahead of next week’s Copa Sudamericana semi final second leg.
Unión could have challenged Central yet slipped up at home to Patronato to end their chances.
Gustavo Canto headed Patronato in front and although Mauro Luna Diale swiftly equalised a Franco Calderón own goal restored the visitors lead.