A title race in the Argentinean Superliga that looked done and dusted is now wide open with Boca stumbling and San Lorenzo on a fantastic run of form
Cast your mind back one month and champions Boca Juniors had just celebrated another famous Superclásico victory and with a perfect start to the season were cruising to a title defence. A few weeks is a long time in Argentinian football and after two consecutive defeats and a serious knee injury to leading scorer Darío Benedetto, the Superliga trophy no longer looks destined for La Bombonera.
San Lorenzo have strung together an impressive run of their own in the meantime and with two matches this week, were able to not only close on Boca but temporarily leapfrog their Buenos Aires rivals into top spot.
Sunday afternoon’s hard fought victory over Tigre in Victoria sent Los Cuervos three points clear, having played two games more, and so there was a degree of pressure on Boca with the visit of relegation threatened Arsenal later the same day.
Lacking the fluency that Fernando Gago provides, the drive of Pablo Pérez and the ruthlessness of Benedetto, Boca were far from their best but inspired by the talents of Edwin Cardona overcame their spirited but inferior opponents.
Such a frustrating figure, Cardona’s talent is worthy of lighting up the best leagues in the world, but his temperament and consistency hold him back. However, with Boca in need of a performance the Colombian pulled the strings with a wonderful array of passing and tricks to the delight of the crowd.
Cardona’s cross created the first for young striker Guido Vadalá, who had been thrust into the side after Walter Bou joined Benedetto on the physio table, and the crafty playmaker wrapped up the points late on.
Boca take on Estudiantes in their last game before the long summer break but will be eager to end the year out in front after squandering a seven-point lead while San Lorenzo’s four straight wins have made them real contenders. Claudio Biaggio was supposed to only be an interim choice, tasked with steadying the ship after Diego Aguirre’s patchy start, but the 50-year-old now looks poised for a more permanent role.
Independiente may yet make it a three-way battle but El Rojo had the weekend off in preparation for their Copa Sudamericana final and Ariel Holland’s side must then win their two games in hand to get back in contention.
The remaining sides near the top all missed the chance to stay close on Boca’s heels with Unión drawing at home to Belgrano, Huracán slipping up against Patronato and Colón tasting defeat for the first time this season away to Atlético Tucumán.
The result for Atlético a timely boost ahead of this weekend’s Copa Argentina final. El Decano are aiming to make history and lift their first major title but giants River Plate stand in their way.
Los Millonarios would normally be overwhelming favourites but Marcelo Gallardo’s side will arrive in Mendoza in wretched form. A 2-1 defeat away to Gimnasia on Sunday evening was a fifth in six games and in combination with their Copa Libertadores exit, Superclásico defeat and a run of one win in nine, River could barely be in worse form.
Down in the relegation battle, the weekend’s winners were Olimpo, who remain in the drop zone but did secure an invaluable win over rivals Chacarita Juniors. Recently promoted Chaca look set for a swift return to the Nacional B and their latest defeat prompted Walter Coyette to resign but there appears little hope for the Funebreros.
Coyette’s resignation was the tenth managerial casualty in eleven rounds, a number that has since swelled due to Jorge Almirón departing Copa Libertadores finalists Lanús and Mauricio Larriera quitting Godoy Cruz.
With Arsenal, Temperley, Patronato, Vélez Sarsfield, Tigre and Huracán all failing to pick up three points, the overall relegation picture didn’t change too much and so while there is still a great deal to be resolved in the second half of the season, the only thing that is as certain as ever in Argentina is managers live a perilous existence.