Well, that’s one way to do it. Carlos Ischia wasn’t the Boca fans’ choice of new manager, and his appointment caused some anger towards Pedro Pompilio when the latter first unveiled him, but on Saturday night, in the Estadio Mundialista of Mar del Plata, he took a huge step to winning over the fans: He guided Boca Juniors to a win against River Plate for the first time in seven meetings.
Diego Simeone’s formation for River was as amitious as it had been in the previous matches, a 3-3-3-1 which saw a debut for new centre-back Gustavo Cabral, Rodrigo Archubi’s deployment on the left and Ariel Ortega in the playmaker’s role, with Sebastián Abreu leading the line. Ischia played things a little more conservatively (or sensibly), sticking with Boca’s tried-and-tested 4-3-1-2 and giving Julio César Cáceres his debut in front of his old club. Juan Román Riquelme, needless to say, was the ‘1’ in the formation.
Whilst the match was played at pace earlier on, River looked more up for it, but Boca, with the greater patience to manage the ball, exuded more confidence. 30 second in, Eduardo Tuzzio went in hard on Martín Palermo and Riquelme cannoned the subsequent free kick off the crossbar. It was Ariel Ortega, however, playing with all the tricky spirit of old, who dominated the opening minutes. River’s line of three behind Abreu – Ortega, Mauro Rosales and Alexis Sánchez – still looked a little disconnected, but were playing with more outright attacking intent than Boca’s midfield and forwards.
It was Boca who struck before the break, though, Palermo seizing on a, 18th-minute mistake from debutant Cabral and getting a free kick which saw the ball played wide to Claudio Morel Rodríguez on the left. Morel drilled the ball across the box, Pablo Ledesma failed to hit it whilst attempting an overhead kick, and it dropped for Sebastián Battaglia, who made no such mistake. 1-0.
With the advantage, Boca settled and started to dictate the rhythm of play more, breaking up River’s attacks high up the pitch and searching for chances to draw fouls near the penalty box, where Riquelme’s set-piece delivery would do most damage. River had their chances, though: the clearest saw Juan Pablo Carrizo claim a corner strongly and quickly release Sánchez down the left. The young Chilean fed Ortega, who could have scored an incredible equaliser, but fluffed his lines, ballooning his shot over the bar.
Boca had more bad injury luck in the second half, Neri Cardozo added to an injury list which already includes Hugo Ibarra, and having to be replaced by Jesús Dátolo. On the pitch, however, it changed little in terms of the flow of the game, and Palermo doubled Boca’s lead eleven minutes after the break, making the most of a slip-up by Carrizo to nod in a Riquelme cross. Thereafter, Boca closed the game out in style, only failing to add to their lead by the width of the crossbar after Palermo saw another attempt bounce back, and with Riquelme on top form.
The first super of the year, then, has passed. Diego Simeone’s said from the start that his mind is focussed solely on the opening match of the Clausura, but any loss to Boca hurts for River’s fans. For the Xeneize, it’ll be pleasant to taste victory again after six matches without a win – but aside from the upcoming Copa Revancha, everyone knows it’s the competitive matches which actually count. This win, however, could just be the kick-start Ischia’s season has been waiting for.
Photo taken from tycsports.com.ar