Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
RESULTS Sat Feb 20 Newells Old Boys 1-1 Lanús, Tigre 1-1 Gimnasia La Plata, Vélez Sarsfield 3-0 Independiente Sun Feb 21 Atlético Tucumán 1-1 Argentinos Juniors, Banfield 0-0 Rosario Central, Racing Club 1-0 San Lorenzo, River Plate 1-1 Arsenal Mon Feb 22 Godoy Cruz 1-1 Boca Juniors
Age-old disputes, a war of words, attempts to divert attention from the failing economy, a fallen empire against its former source of plundered wealth...
Yes, the Malvinas were once against centre stage this weekend. Mrs Thatcher and British oil companies would probably refer to Godoy Cruz’s ground as the Falklands Stadium, but for the sake of diplomacy Argie Bargy will stick to Estadio Malvinas.
It was there that Boca, much like the aforementioned British companies, went in search of oil this weekend.
The Xeneize may only be five points off the top spot, but the situation at the club is considerably worse than their mid-table position would suggest, and only victories will silence the critical voices in the press and in the stands.
The defence is poor, the team’s results worse. Juan Román Riquelme is at odds with journalists (surprise!), while Martín Palermo has to read the papers to discover that the club aren’t planning to renew his contract this June.
With this in mind, fully aware that he needs to improve the team’s fortunes, coach Abel Alves brought in another round of changes to the starting XI and went drilling in Mendoza.
Boca may have been the most successful team of the 2000s, and Godoy Cruz may be your classic ‘modest’ club, but The Tomba have a good record against the former bully boys of Argentine football.
Predictably things didn’t start well for Boca. Just as his brother was doing across the Atlantic for Real Madrid, Federico Higuaín scored with a neat finish.
Having gone a goal down away to the team who hadn’t conceded all season, the final 1-1 draw was a relief for Boca. It was also a fair result, Alves would say afterwards, before trying to dampen the flames in the debate over the two star players.
"Riquelme and Palermo will have to ask 10 times each for me to take them out of the team," said Alves, which isn’t technically true, given that he replaced Palermo in the second half just last week.
It was the right thing to say, but just like poodle-haired rockers Extreme, Boca need more than words. With Estudiantes, Vélez and Racing coming up, the next three games could see the crisis extend further.
While Boca went in search of oil, River continued to dig themselves deeper into a situation which could ultimately bury the club deep in the grave of second-tier football.
For rookies, and for those who look at the various different tables and standings and think they have better things to do than waste time understanding relegation in Argentina, it really is very simple. Sort of:
Take the average points won over the past three seasons and make a league table. The bottom two go straight down. The third- and fourth-botom teams fight out a relegation playoff.
It is often said that the system was introduced after San Lorenzo were relegated in the early 1980s. It was meant to protect the grandes, who are unlikely to have three bad years in a row.
River are currently providing us with the exception. As things stand, the Gallinas will start next season in the direct relegation spot, and this weekend's performance, a lacklustre 1-1 draw at home to Arsenal, showed next to no signs that the corner is in sight.
Elsewhere, Diego Simeone vented his frustration at his side conceding by kicking out at an innocent water bottle. He immediately apologised to the police officer whom it hit in the midriff. But the San Lorenzo boss’s finest moment was yet to come.
"When the sh*t comes bad, you have to grab it with your mouth," he said to a bemused mixed zone. Go figure.
Luciano Figueroa was booked for falling over in Banfield’s area. There was contact from the keeper, but the Central striker dived roughly four minutes before it happened. No argument to the casual observer, but the typical "The referees are against us..." followed.
Newell’s Old Boys old boy Santiago Salcedo scored against his former club to grant Lanús manager Luis Zubeldía a stay of execution, earning a point in Rosario. The relief will have been tempered by news concerning one of the club’s youth team products – Cristián Fabbiani.
Still without a club and now without a wife after being seen dancing with a chica that he wasn’t married to, The Ogre is back at Lanús. He’s only training at the club’s facilities as he attempts to keep fit for next season, but history teaches us that Fabbiani tends to bring trouble with him. And that is something Lanús could do without.
See all the goals acá
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