Boca Juniors’ place in the Copa Diego Maradona final may have come as little surprise but few would have predicted Banfield would be competing for only their second top flight title when the AFA announced this short championship season in October.
Banfield’s 4-1 win over San Lorenzo on Sunday night confirmed their spot as group winners despite Talleres also beating Colón.
It was another impressive display from Javier Sanguinetti’s side, who have been the surprise package in the cup. The return of Mauricio Cuero has proved an outstanding piece of business and after tormenting the San Lorenzo left in the opening stages of the game, the Colombian eventually laid on the opener for Fabián Bordagaray.
The real success behind Banfield’s run to the final has been their academy products. Agustín Fontana leading the line, Martín Payero and Giuliano Galoppo driving forward from midfield while Jorge Rodríguez anchors and a solid back four so it was fitting that three combined to deservedly double the lead. Bravo’s raking cross field pass, headed down by the impressive Payero and volleyed in by Fontana.
San Lorenzo worked themselves back into contention, Ángel Romero’s clever flick setting up Víctor Salazar to reduce the deficit but the Taladro could not be denied.
Payero capped off his superb performance with a stunning free-kick in the 88th minute and substitute Juan Álvarez wrapped it up in stoppage time.
Jubilation for Banfield who will now face Boca Juniors to the title next Sunday in San Juan but the nail in the coffin for Mariano Soso at San Lorenzo. Reports of a bust-up in the dressing room after the game between Fernando Monetti and Ángel Romero and only four victories from his eleven games in charge Soso has already been shown the door. San Lorenzo, like Racing Club and Independiente, will head into next season looking for a new coach.
Banfield’s victory meant that Talleres’ win over Colón was ultimately meaningless.
Heavy rain in Santa Fe made things difficult on a waterlogged pitch at the Estadio Brigadier General Estanislao López but couldn’t prevent Tomás Pochettino crossing for Diego Valoyes to volley Talleres in front after half an hour.
A goalkeeping error allowed Nahuel Tenaglia to sneak a header through the fingers of Leonardo Burián to double the lead only for the man between the posts at the other end, Marcos Díaz to allow Tomás Sandoval a simple goal.
It proved only a consolation for Colón as Talleres held on for three points.
Gimnasia had also still been in the running before the final round but needed both Banfield and Talleres to slip up and in the end El Lobo slipped to defeat against Atlético Tucumán.
In Ricardo Zielinski’s final game in charge of the visitors, Marcelo Ortíz scored the only goal to give El Ruso a parting three points.
The earlier dead rubber from Group A between Arsenal and Huracán ended 1-0.
A scrappy first goal for youngster Bruno Báez gave Arsenal the lead midway through the first half and Huracán’s hopes of a comeback took a hit when Nicolás Cordero was sent off before the break.