Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
Red cards, handballs, good goals not given... ah yes, Argentine football at its best.
Argie Bargy has long said the fascination of Argentine football may not necessarily be its quality but its sheer entertainment value; rare is the game that hasn't contained at least one ejection, scuffle, or moment of controversy – and that's just in the crowd.
This is a passionate society, and football is its vent.
Take Boca 1-1 Independiente on Sunday. Not an inspiring scoreline, but the game contained all that is good, and bad, about Argentine football.
Independiente striker Leonel Nuñez's goal was disallowed, much to the consternation of the Red Devils president Julio Comparada: "Independiente fans are disgusted," he told the press. "The ball went in. I have no doubt it was a goal," with coach Claudio Borghi chiming in that "The ball crossed the line and bounced out."
To disgust Comparada even more, Rodrigo Palacio, on his first game back at Boca this season, scored a lovely goal straight after half-time... but did he use his hand to control it first? Comparada certain thought so. "Palacio carried the ball with his hand," he fumed.
Somehow, Comparada failed to mention Daniel Montenegro's foul on Gabriel Paletta – a pity, as again it was an entertaining moment.
Marvellously-named referee Pablo Lunati booked the forward for the tackle, even as he limped off for treatment. So when Montenegro (who had set up Dario Gondin's 49th-minute leveller) injudiciously came back onto the field without a permission slip, the ref had no choice but to show a second yellow, meaning the visitors faced the last 15 minutes a man down – a situation that got twice as bad when Guillermo Rodriguez was sent off for dissent with three minutes to go.
Comparada did admit that the result was just: "Independiente had a good game against the best team in Argentine football" – and the visitors will be happy to have escaped with a point against the league leaders. Resurgent San Lorenzo are level with Boca after beating Rosario Central 2-1.
While there is a certain predictability about first and second positions, Colon in third, followed by San Martin de Tucuman, Tigre, Velez, Lanus and Arsenal are all small teams taking advantages of the disarray at River and Racing, both skulking in the bottom half of the table.
With Boca already proving their squad depth by thriving without major players, it seems unlikely that they'll face much of a challenge for the title – but behind them, it could be yet another good season for the smaller teams.
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