Another championship is over, and as the players (except Boca’s) head off on their summer holidays, it’s time to reflect again on yet another thrilling short tournament. Unexpected champions was the least of it – we’ve seen an avalanche of goals, players pushing themselves into the limelight and yet more booing from the stands of the Monumental in particular…
Two names above all others deserve mention here: championship winners Lanus, and runners-up Tigre. The Granate had never won a championship in their 92-year history, whilst Tigre improved on their previous best finish, fifty-four years ago, by a full four places. Arsenal were poor in the league but worthy winners of the Copa Sudamericana, beating River on penalties in the semis before toppling América de Mexico in the final to round off a great six months for the underdogs. Independiente were ultimately disappointed but at least gave their fans something to dream about, and Huracan, whilst they didn’t match their fellow promotees in the top two places, can be more than happy with what they eventually managed.
For the second campaign running, Racing were frustrated, but for the second campaign running they were outdone in terms of failing to live up to expectations by River Plate, the most successful side in the history of the Argentine domestic game, who despite being quite spectacular at home during the first half of the campaign, and totally outplaying Boca in the superclásico, could only finish fourteenth. That derby victory was meant to be a springboard to greater things, but it turned out to be one of the last spasms of the corpse of River’s championship challenge.
Estudiantes couldn’t match the high of one year ago, and San Lorenzo’s title defence foundered early on. A special mention, however, for Rosario Central, who won only two matches out of nineteen and finished rock bottom of the table. There’s hope for the future in their final two results – two whole matches without defeat! – but for the Apertura at least, a 1-0 derby win against Newell’s really was as good as it got.
Even more goals than the Clausura!
The 2007 Clausura saw an impressive 2.5 goals per game, but in the Apertura we had even more to enjoy – 2.555555 per match, before the postponed Gimnasia vs. Arsenal fixture is played. Particularly high scoring were Independiente’s 5-3 spanking of eventual champs Lanús on the opening weekend; Vélez 4-2 Gimnasia de Jujuy in round 4; San Lorenzo 4-3 Racing and River 4-2 Estudiantes in the following round; San Lorenzo’s consecutive defeats to Arsenal (2-4 at home) and Lanús (4-3 away) in rounds 7 and 8; Boca’s 6-0 mauling of Banfield in El Sur in round 9 and River and Central’s 3-3 in round 11 – and those are only the ones with at least six goals. For goals galore, River were the team to watch – the fourth best attack in the league combined with the joint worst defence (31 scored, 33 conceded) to produce 64 goals in 19 matches.
Player of the campaign:
Special mention to Germán Denis, who whacked in 18 goals to come agonisingly close to Martín Palermo’s short tournament scoring record. José Sand led Lanús’s line all the way to the title, and in so doing showed what a bunch of fools River were to let him go from their reserves a few years ago, but it was his team-mate, playmaker Diego Valeri, who pulled the strings and made the eventual champions click, providing plenty of assists and chipping in with six goals of his own as he provided the crux of a fine footballing side.
River may have been hopeless, but arguably the one thing they could smile about was the emergence – as predicted here at the start of the Apertura – of Diego Buonanotte, their brilliant young forward. Thrown in so far past the deep end it may as well have been the mid Atlantic, in the superclásico of all fixtures, he was unplayable and crucial to River’s 2-0 win. And whilst all around him collapsed, he hardly had much chance to shine too brightly, but has certainly proved that he’ll be one to watch in future seasons.
Goal of the campaign:
Back when River were good at home, Fernando Belluschi might have been holding a contest for this accolade on his own, and the football Lanús were playing produced a few beauties. The eventual winner, however, must come from the penultimate weekend’s demolition of Racing by Huracán. OK, so it was scored against only eight opponents – but it’s still a thing of beauty. Having said that, I’m not sure myself which exactly it is, so I’ll let you make your own mind up between these two…
Nieto: Huracán 2 – 0 Racing (87th min)
Sánchez Prette: Huracán 3 – 0 Racing (89th min)