And they’re off!

Taking it easy in pre-season

‘Big football’, as the Argentine media call it, is back at last. The 2008 Torneo de Verano kicked off on Friday night in Salta, and it was joy for Racing as Miguel Micó’s men beat San Lorenzo 1-0 thanks to a first-half header from Diego Menghi, as Ramón Díaz watched on his sofa at home.

Díaz watched on TV from his home in Buenos Aires, having chosen not to travel with the squad for now. Nonetheless, his son Michel made his first-team debut for San Lorenzo under the tutelage of El Pelado‘s assistant, Sebastián Rambert, who is absolutely not trying to suck up to his boss.

Generally in pre-season games, of course, good football is hardly everywhere you look on the pitch, but this, it seems, was an exception – at least relatively speaking. San Lorenzo started more brightly, Aureliano Torres getting down the left to good effect, not least when sending in a centre for striker Bernardo Romeo to meet with his head and send crashing onto the crossbar. Around the half hour, the game started to swing Racing’s way.

Claudio Fileppi was one of the main protagonists, first sending a long-range shot whistling just over the crossbar and minutes later, with the same left foot, curling over a corner which centre-back Diego Menghi rose to head in, and send Racing in 1-0 up at the break.

Of course, this is the first match of the year, and it’s being played in the height of summer, so in the second half it was inevitable that the pace slowed more than a little. Adrián Bastía was subbed by Racing manager Micó at half time due in part to the booking he’d received in the first half, with the slightly more defensive Cristian Pellerano replacing him, and Racing set out to defend their lead. San Lorenzo, all the same, wanted the equaliser, and pushed hard for it, coming closest when Racing keeper Hilario Navarro missed an easy catch and got lucky, Romeo finding the angle far too narrow to put it in the net.

It wasn’t an entirely good day for Racing fans – Blanquiceleste chief Fernando De Tomaso declared he won’t be standing down ‘for all the money in the world,’ but it’s a promising start to 2008, especially with new boy Fileppi stepping up and taking his first-team chance well. Olé are calling it ‘a triumph which serves to change the face of Racing,’ and given recent goings-on, that’s no bad thing.

The Torneo de Verano continues tomorrow, as River Plate take on Independiente in Mar del Plata. By the end of the weekend, I should have a league table up for you. Welcome to football in 2008, Argentine-style.

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