It’s difficult to know who’ll be more disappointed after Tuesday night’s Torneo de Verano match-up. On the one hand, Racing are at a low enough point that they’ll be expected to be happy with a goalless draw against a team made of youth players and reserves. On the other, Boca’s youth players and reserves, who train with Martín Palermo and Juan Román Riquelme among others, could only manage a draw against Racing… so who’s more embarrassed?
The take in the press – and this gives you an indicator of how far Racing’s stock has plummeted – is that Boca’s players will be the more shamefaced, after what is now their third match in this Torneo de Verano without a victory. Hugo Ibarra, on Monday, was ruled out of action for the duration following the injury he picked up during the draw with San Lorenzo on Sunday, and Boca wanted something to put a smile on the fans’ faces – and their own. Of course, Racing need it as well.
Miguel Micó started the match with something very similar to the side he’s expected to field against Olimpo on the opening day of the Clausura, in a 4-3-3 formation. Facundo Sava returned to the starting lineup, whilst Boca manager Carlos Ischia had to make a last-minute change after Lucas Castromán fell ill shortly before the match. Promising youngster Pablo Mouche was called up in his place. Ezequiel Benavídez also made his debut – mark the date on your calendars because this is the man named as the successor to Fernando Gago and Ever Banega in Boca’s number 5 shirt.
Boca had the chances early on, with Leandro Gracián pulling the strings to send Mauro Boselli in behind the defence, only to see the forward’s shot saved by Hilario Navarro in the Racing goal. Racing, meanwhile, were leaving their forwards too isolated, the midfield too deep to get any help to them. A shot from outside the box from Matías Sánchez, easily saved by Pablo Migliore, was the best La Academia could manage.
Sánchez was fouled, midway through the first half, by Boca’s debutant Benavídes, who was only booked when a red would have made more sense. With the very next passage of play, Racing almost took the lead, Sava coming within inches of announcing his return to the first team in style. His header, however, flew just past the post.
The second half saw little more. Gracián, at moments, reminded onlookers of the player he’d been at Vélez a few years ago, but couldn’t make the difference, even when setting up Jesús Dátolo for what seemed to be a certain chance to open the scoring, only to see Navarro make a superb save. And thirteen minutes from the end came a second yellow card for Benavídes for a second hard challenge on Matías Sánchez. Not the best of debuts.
Following the sending-off, eleven man Racing tried to put more verve into their attacking, but simply couldn’t make the extra body tell. The closing minutes dragged past, and the 0-0 scoreline became inevitable. Boca, when they’ve got over the indignity, will be looking towards the weekend’s superclásico in Mar del Plata. Racing, meanwhile, will just be reflecting on what was a welcome chance to think about football for an evening.