Two areas of consistency in the Argentinean Superliga last weekend – Boca Juniors looking imperious and a lot of managers falling along the way
Three early managerial casualties
Monday evening’s clash between Estudiantes and San Lorenzo was the meeting of two interim managers after elimination from the Copa Sudamericana and Copa Libertadores respectively saw both clubs part company with coaches.
Defeat to Nacional in the Sudamericana saw Gustavo Matosas call time on his brief sojourn in La Plata after only seven games in charge while Diego Aguirre finally bid farewell to San Lorenzo in the aftermath of his Copa Libertadores exit at the hands of Lanús.
Claudio Biaggio stole the bragging rights of the stand-in managers on Monday as his San Lorenzo secured a 3-1 win over Leandro Benítez’s Estudiantes – Fernando Belluschi’s almost halfway line lob capping off the victory and laying down an early goal of the season contender.
Both clubs have big decisions to make this week but Lucas Bernardi appears in line to become the fifth coach of Juan Sebastián Verón’s presidency while San Lorenzo set their sights on former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze.
However, Matosas and Aguirre were not alone this week as Defensa y Justicia’s 3-1 defeat to Colón on Saturday prompted Nelson Vivas to leave his post even quicker than his Estudiantes replacement. The fiery ex-Arsenal defender lasted only six matches with El Halcón and accused president José Lemme of questioning his team selection.
So with three out after only four rounds, Argentina still proves one of the harshest environments for managers. There were 32 full-time changes last season and while the Superliga is a little off that pace at this early stage, expect plenty more chopping and changing.
Benedetto stakes claim for Argentina’s number nine shirt
Amid all the lengthy debates over recent months or even years between whether it should be Sergio Agüero, Mauro Icardi or Gonzalo Higuaín to wear the Argentina number nine shirt, a new name has played himself into genuine contention without even making the switch to Europe. Darío Benedetto’s brace on Saturday helped secure a 4-0 win for Boca Juniors over Vélez but took the 27-year-old’s tally in blue and gold to a mightily impressive 31 goals in 36 matches.
Given his goal-to-game ratio is far better than Boca’s record goal scorer Martín Palermo at the same point in his career at the club, it is understandable that supporters at La Bombonera have taken to Benedetto but with Argentina gearing up to face Peru at the same stadium, there are growing calls for Pipa to lead the line.
A number nine capable of scoring all types of goals, Benedetto increasingly looks like a striker that should be plying his trade at a top European club but after signing a contract extension with Boca is not only set to stay for a while longer but makes Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side firm favourites to defend their title.
With Cristian Pavón, Fernando Gago and Pablo Pérez all pushing for Argentina call-ups, and Frank Fabra and Edwin Cardona already in Colombia’s plans, Boca have a formidable squad that will take some stopping. Los Xeneizes are now the only side with a 100% record intact and it’s tough to see where too many points are dropped.
No eight-goal repeat for River
Boca’s closest rivals, both historically and this season, River Plate were held to a 1-1 draw against Argentinos Juniors to drop their first two points of the campaign. This, just days after Marcelo Gallardo’s side secured a historic 8-0 win over Bolivian club Jorge Wilstermann in the Copa Libertadores.
Trailing 3-0 from the first leg in Cochabamba, that deficit was supposed to prove a difficult task for River but was overturned in less than 20 minutes for an emphatic place in the Libertadores semi-final.
Newly promoted Argentinos were perhaps not going to be quite such a walk over but the result would be the same. Los Bichos were yet to win a point in the Superliga but battled bravely in the Monumental to claim an excellent draw and hopefully kickstart their campaign.
Independiente compile list of refereeing grievances
From at one point talking about challenging on all fronts, Independiente had a week to forget with a Copa Argentina exit followed up by a second consecutive Superliga defeat that leaves El Rojo already eight points behind Boca.
Rather than focusing on how to improve on the pitch, Independiente went on the attack with the officiating and published a list of all the errors against them before deciding to pull out from the official site a few hours later. Given club president Hugo Moyano’s role as second vice-president to AFA chief Chiqui Tapia it was an odd move but perhaps El Rojo were hoping this relation would result in more favourable decisions.
Patricio Loustau’s penalty that handed Godoy Cruz victory on Saturday night did indeed seem harsh but once again El Rojo’s biggest enemy was their own profligacy in front of goal.
No end to Banfield’s surprises
Banfield sealing a Copa Libertadores spot last season was a shock but El Taladro seem intent on proving it was no fluke. Paolo Montero’s Rosario Central, like all the Uruguayan coach’s previous teams, are usually well drilled and tough to beat but Banfield left the Gigante de Arroyito 4-0 winners.
The experienced Darío Cvitanich, Pablo Mouche, Mauricio Sperduti and Jesus Datolo are all still proving they can cut it but it was the impressive Nicolas Bertolo who was perhaps decisive in Rosario. The 31-year-old’s suspicious looking dive won the penalty that really opened the game and allowed the visitors to punish Central on the counter.