While the Argentine national side were lurching into another crisis, La Primera kept on keeping on with Boca Juniors leading the way at the top
Boca Juniors restore lead at the top
Argentina’s grandes all responded to their disappointing results last weekend to record victories and it ensured Boca Juniors remain three points clear at the top of the table.
It seemed odd to be questioning Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s Boca Juniors after a first defeat since the opening round last weekend to Talleres but following the sale of Carlos Tevez, a disappointing summer break and an obvious dip in form, some had begun to doubt whether Los Xeneizes were still title favourites.
Sunday’s victory over San Martin hardly answered all those questions and Boca still appear defensively very fragile but the dynamic duo of Cristian Pavon and Ricardo Centurion produced the moments of quality that separate Barros Schelotto’s side to many in the Primera. Pavon had come in for criticism in the loss to Talleres but opened the scoring in San Juan with what is rapidly becoming something of a trademark strike and Centurion provided the guile and trickery that is vital in the post-Tevez era.
There may now be an increased sense of vulnerability about Boca but without any other distractions, they are still favourites to lift the title.
San Lorenzo responded with vital win to keep pace
Another club hastily having the word ‘crisis’ thrown around were San Lorenzo and although they needed to be patient against Quilmes, Los Cuervos ran out 3-0 winners to ease the pressure on Diego Aguirre.
It has been the two defeats in the Copa Libertadores that have caused any unrest at the Nuevo Gasometro but last weekend’s defeat to Godoy Cruz and the fact that they hadn’t kept a clean sheet in seven league matches had hardly helped matters.
Keeping Quilmes out on Saturday will have pleased Aguirre as much as the three late goals and with it Los Cuervos are now Boca’s closest rivals.
Newell’s and Estudiantes fall further behind
Both remain in the title hunt and faced tricky away trips at the weekend but the solitary point taken by Newell’s in Parana and Estudiantes in Rafaela, meant neither are really exhibiting the kind of form that will capture trophies.
Patronato have proven to be a difficult customer on their own patch since promotion and only Gimnasia have won in the Estadio Presbitero Bartolome Grella this season so a point is not disastrous for La Lepra. However, it does leave Diego Osella’s side five points adrift and their lack of goals is ultimately likely to cost them.
One time runaway leaders Estudiantes are now six points behind Boca after a draw with Atletico de Rafaela and with one win in seven, El Pincha’s hopes are fading fast.
Gustavo Bou saves Racing again
Defeat to Belgrano served as a timely wake-up for Racing supporters who may have been carried away by Diego Cocca’s return and the immediate win over Lanus. For 85 minutes in the Cilindro on Saturday, Cocca’s side were frustratingly heading for another loss but with Lisandro Lopez out injured and Marcos Acuna on international duty, Gustavo Bou stepped up to ensure that didn’t happen.
With such important senior figures missing, Bou is critical to Cocca’s side not only as a focal point of the attack but as a tutor for the likes of Argentina under-20 pair Lautaro Martinez and Brian Mansilla.
A suspect defence and poor away record have probably left Racing with too much to do to close the gap at the top but few sides will want to face La Academia when they are back to full strength over the second half of the season.
River Plate complete fine weekend for the grandes
Independiente were not playing so it was a big four in action rather than the traditional big five and River Plate ensured it was four wins from four with victory over Belgrano.
Since the Cordoba club relegated River for the first time in their history in 2011, the fixture has taken on something of a derby feel and Marcelo Gallardo’s side were made to work hard for a second consecutive Primera win.
Leading scorer Sebastian Driussi found the net again but the match was won by the in-form Pity Martinez, who is firmly answering his critics within River’s supporters with a level of consistency that has often been missing.
Los Millonarios poor first half of the season most likely counts them out and focus is certainly on the Copa Libertadores but the addition of Ariel Rojas to the midfield has made River a more balanced side.
And the relegation picture?
Matters at the foot of the descenso remain as tight as ever but late goals could have serious implications come the end of the season.
Atletico de Rafaela and Temperley need miracles to escape the bottom four but showed considerable spirit in snatching late draws against Estudiantes and Atletico Tucuman respectively.
The side that look in increasing danger are Arsenal, and while they remain outside the drop zone by a hair’s width for now, such a porous defence and inability to win matches leaves them perilously hovering. The Grondona family built the club but it is far from clear that Humbertito is the man to lead them to safety.