Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
“Muerde,” says the 40-something up in the stands at the Argentinos Juniors game on Sunday afternoon.
“Put him under” would be the rough translation of what he wanted his team’s player to do, but the literal translation would simply be ’bite.’
Two seats along, granddad could see that his granddaughter, sat in between him and his 40 something son, was a bit bored and not too happy. The abuelo leant over, and in her ear let go a quiet ’woof’.
She managed a smile. Things weren’t going to plan for Argentinos, and light-hearted jokes from the older generation - who have seen things not go to plan for over two decades - were needed.
Even though Argentinos had packed out their stadium, there was silence in the stands. No singing and no jumping, just some nail-biting. Opposite, several thousand Independiente supporters were basking in the sun and basking in their glory.
The Rojo were 3-1 up, ruining their opponent’s chances of winning the title and were still in with a chance of winning the championship themselves.
What happened next quickly surpassed by any of the other stories of the weekend. Not even River Plate’s Gabriel Funes Mori hitting his first goal of the season after not finding the net in 14 matches (and then hitting two more for a 23-minute hattrick) would steal the limelight.
Nor would Hernan Lopez hitting a 28-minute hattrick of headers against Chacarita, only to then find a fourth in the second half. Huracán beating Boca at the Bombonera for the first time in 30 years would also fail to take front page.
Not even Newell’s thrashing Gimnasia 6-0 - going top of the 2009/10 table on Saturday night – and becoming the best side in the land would be the weekend’s top story. Sunday’s events at Argentinos would trump them all.
Diego Maradona took his seat in the stands and was sat next to his son, who the Argentinos stadium is now named after. So while the two Diego’s watched on, Estudiantes were taking on Central. The title race had come down to a two-horse race between Argentinos and Estudiantes, and both played at the same time on Sunday.
Despite taking the lead, things soon looked grim for Argentinos.
Lionel Núñez took the corner for Independiente, and saw his cross swing all the way round and over substitute keeper Ojeda and into the top corner. Núñez appeared to be apologising for his fluke, but was in fact apologising for scoring against the club he started out at.
After a goal from Darío Gandín, Núñez then repeated his hands-together head-bowed gesture after hitting his second, which took Independiente to a 3-1 lead.
Estudiantes may have had Juan Sebastián Verón sent off and were struggling with a 0-0 draw, but the dream of the title seemed over for the Bicho. Up in the stands, a grandfather woofed.
Núñez was soon taken off as Independiente looked to tighten up at the back and win all three points. He trudged off with his now-familiar hands-together head-down apology to the home fans, which was lucky because if he had held his head high, the full bottle of water that hurtled towards him from the stands would probably have knocked him unconscious.
Núñez survived, but Independiente did not. Tolo Gallego’s plan to shut up shop and defend a 3-1 lead chronically back-fired.
Argentinos bombarded the Rojo’s area, and pulled back a goal. Independiente wasted two remarkable chances to kill the game off, but then, two minutes from time, amidst the rubble of fallen bodies in the 6-yard area, the ball fell for defender Juan Sabia to blast in the equaliser.
Argentinos would go into the final day of the season a point behind Estudiantes, who had ended their game with Central 0-0.
That was until the 93rd minute, when Independiente ridiculously tried to pass the ball out of defence, only to lose it and allow Argentinos to grab the winner via a deflected shot from captain Matías Caruzzo.
The pile-on that ensued included one of the photographers stood nearby, who missed his best photo opportunity in 25 years of covering Argentinos.
Maybe he, and the team, will keep their composure next weekend and get the shot of Argentinos lifting the league trophy.
RESULTS Vélez 4-1 Chacarita, Newell’s 6-0 Gimnasia, Racing 0-3 River Plate, Argentinos Juniors 4-3 Independiente, Estudiantes 0-0 Central, Tigre 1-2 Banfield, Boca Juniors 1-2 Huracán, Atlético Tucumán 1-1 Arsenal
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