In a famous and comprehensive win in La Bombonera, River Plate took down Boca Juniors in their own home to set up grand league title charge
The last time that River Plate beat Boca Juniors in La Bombonera was 2014 when Manuel Lanzini and Ramiro Funes Mori gave Ramon Diaz’s side a 2-1 win that provided the catalyst for Los Millonarios to complete their redemption from relegation to Primera champions.
Marcelo Gallardo soon after inherited that side and has since won virtually every cup competition going but a league title has eluded him. That may be about to change as while there is still some distance yet to run, momentum has swung firmly in the direction of El Monumental.
Boca still hold a three point lead at the top and even if River win their game in hand, Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side would remain a point clear but the first half of Sunday’s Superclasico served to highlight the deficiencies that have seen Boca drop nine points in their last five matches.
Post the sale of Carlos Tevez to China, Boca’s offence has been largely centred on the talents of Ricardo Centurion and so it’s perhaps not coincidental that this most recent blip has come at a time when the 24-year-old has spent a short period on the treatment table.
The skillful forward made a swift return to the starting eleven in last weekend’s draw with Estudiantes but lasted only fifteen minutes of the Superclasico before limping out with an apparent hamstring injury and the threat of Boca’s forward line immediately diminished.
For all of Dario Benedetto’s potency in the penalty area, the centre forward could offer little when dropping deep and while the midfield had already been creaking in the opening exchanges, as Pablo Perez and Rodrigo Bentancur pushed forward in an effort to support, it left Boca’s defence woefully exposed.
Full-backs Gino Peruzzi and Frank Fabra provide Boca with great width and options when attacking but are guilty of neglecting their defensive duties and as the pair took it in turns to be caught out of position, River ran amok during a first half that should have been far more damaging to the home side.
Driussi had already squandered the sort of chance the league leading scorer would normally dispatch in his sleep, Fabra should have been given his marching orders for a wild challenge on Jorge Moreira and aside from the two fine goals by Gonzalo Martinez and Lucas Alario, the visitors flowed forward almost unchecked.
A fortuitous Fernando Gago free kick in the final seconds of the first half, which young goalkeeper Augusto Batalla completely misjudged and allowed to float over his head, gave Boca an undeserved break and in fact changed the complexion of the second half.
However, Boca improvements after the break couldn’t convert into goals and two of River Plate’s youngsters deserve enormous praise for that. Goalkeeper Batalla could easily have dwindled after his error under the lights of La Bombonera but came up with a vital double stop and 21-year-old Lucas Martinez Quarta produced the sort of coming of age performance that River supporters may look back on in years if the central defender goes onto fulfill his potential.
River still have a great deal to do but with Nacho Fernandez back from injury to pull the strings in midfield, Pity Martinez finding the consistency that his talent demanded and a strike-force of Sebastian Driussi and Lucas Alario that looks likely to find the net in every match, Los Millonarios have made things very interesting.
Boca and River, the two old enemies and giants of the Argentine game, duking it out at the top of the table makes for a scintillating title race that looks likely to go to the wire.
The best of the rest from clasico weekend
San Lorenzo’s recent resurgence continued with a fifth consecutive victory in all competitions coming over local rivals Huracan on Saturday. Marcos Angeleri headed the only goal of the game, in which Los Cuervos needed to ride their luck at times, but has now made Diego Aguirre’s side a serious challenger to Boca. El Ciclon sit three points behind the leaders and still need to host River Plate before the end of the season.
Newell’s Old Boys lost further ground after following up their defeat to Independiente last weekend with a dreadful clasico showing against Central. El Canalla deservedly took the city bragging rights from the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa and have successfully derailed La Lepra’s title aspirations.
Banfield climbed to within four points of Boca and Estudiantes to within five, with narrow derby victories and despite remaining outsiders are within touching distance.
And finally, Racing Club’s dreams were killed off by Independiente in the clasico de Avellaneda as Ariel Holan’s exciting team finally brought their splendid away form back home and gifted a night to remember for supporters.