Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
Despite the promising set of fixtures - clásicos, top-of-the-table clashes - the weekend in Argentina was far from vintage.
In amidst the pervading sense of mediocrity on the pitch there was the odd flash of skill, a golazo here and there, and even a tidy move if you looked carefully. But the racist taunts, the poor refereeing decisions, the disgraceful ‘tackles’ and the ever-present barra bravas stole the headlines.
Results Matchday 12: Arsenal 1-3 Godoy Cruz, Vélez 0-0 Estudiantes, Argentinos 1-0 All Boys, River 1-1 Racing, Quilmes 0-2 Banfield, Lanús 1-2 Colón, Huracán 3-0 San Lorenzo, Independiente 0-0 Boca, Tigre 3-2 Olimpo, Newell’s 1-0 Gimnasia
The super-super-weekend failed to materialise. Commentators shunned Panenka, Zidane or even Totti and preferred to use El Loco Abreu as their reference point for Luciano Leguizamon’s chipped penalty which gave Arsenal the lead at home to Godoy Cruz.
It put them joint top of the table for nearly half an hour, but Arsenal lost their lead and lost the game. The wind may be out of their sails for now, but the *rse are still within four points of Estudiantes.
Vélez against Estudiantes was a non-event. Not even had Juan Sebastián Verón been fit and lined up for Alejandro Sabella’s side would the Students have gone out looking to make a game of it.
Instead, they made do with a back five, a remarkable display from midfielder Rodrigo Braña, and won a point, suiting them just fine. Vélez missed the pace of Maxi Moralez up front, but hoofing long balls to Santiago Silva proved to be a poor Plan B.
River-Racing stood out only for glimpses of brilliance from Gio ‘GM10’ Moreno and the promise of an improvement in the game when Diego Buonanotte put the millionaires level, just seconds after coming on after the break.
It was a chimera. The second half was worst than the first. The two sets of fans made their own fun and stuck to sarcastically applauding songs emanating from the other end of the stadium.
And on Sunday afternoon, football was a mere anecdote in the Independiente-Boca clásico - the barra brava and racist chants took the headlines. While Huracán and San Lorenzo predictably faced their own demons with a series of events between the two clubs’ barra brava (including shoot-outs), fortunately there was football to talk about in that particular clásico.
With two wins in 11, and not one in four under coach Miguel Brindisi, the odds were against Huracán. Ramón 'Díaz’ Falcon was the firm favourite, with San Lorenzo not playing the best football this season, but still considerably better than their hated rivals.
Huracán, meanwhile, lined up with a team of babies with an average age of 22. Five of the team could count the number of top-flight games they had played on one hand. In total, those five players had 15 games’ experience between them.
Yet despite their form and experience, San Lorenzo neither defended well, nor attacked well. Huracán’s youngsters, many of whom had been close to leaving the club for lack of opportunities, shone. Huracán’s centre-backs Quintana and Quiroga both scored great goals leading from set pieces, while Diego Rodriguez - one of the veterans of the side at the ripe old age of 24 - finished off the game with a late penalty.
The last time Huracán beat San Lorenzo 3-0 was in 1972. On that day, Miguel Brindisi was amongst the goalscorers. Four decades on, he masterminded the victory. "This win comforts the soul," he said afterwards. Going on the other performances this weekend, Argentine football as a whole could also do with a bit of soul-cleansing.
River Plate relegation watch Both Tigre and Huracán won this weekend, so after their fifth draw in five, River are six points clear of safety.
Quilmes win watch Leo Madelón replaced Hugo Tocalli in midweek as the Brewer’s coach, but there was no debut win. Indeed, there was no debut draw. There wasn’t even the alegría of a debut goal. 12 games in, Quilmes are still searching for the first win.
Some complementary comments on your great review, plus information on Perú and Bolivia, this week on the podcast. Hope you enjoy and take something out of it.
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