The old guard

River Plate went temporarily top earlier on Sunday evening, and Boca Juniors leapfrogged them on goal difference a couple of hours later by beating Colón de Santa Fé 2-1 in La Bombonera. The league table tonight is topped by the two giants for the first time in a surprisingly long while, although when the AFA decide (as they surely will) to award Estudiantes the points after Saturday’s fiasco at Racing, Roberto Sensini’s men will go ahead of both.

Boca went out with everything they had, in spite of the fact that they were missing Juan Román Riquelme and Gabriel Paletta (both injured), determined to put behind them the embarrassment of Thursday night’s loss to Colo Colo in the Copa Libertadores (which wasn’t covered on HEGS due to my being away for a couple of nights). There was further motivation from the fact that Carlos Ischia rotated his squad and sent out players who normally warm the bench, and therefore felt they had even more of a point to prove.

It was a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, in a way; Colón lost manager Leonardo Astrada on Monday and his replacement, Antonio Mohamed, only arrived back in the country on Friday, and won’t officially take charge until Monday. Ramón Mántaras took charge of a struggling side for a visit to La Bombonera against a Boca side who were heavily motivated. You’ve got to pity him really.

Jesús Dátolo got things rolling just six minutes in, after a good combination between Luciano Monzón and Leandro Gracián left him with the ball in the box. His right-footed shot was parried by goalkeeper Sebastián Blázquez, but Dátolo made no mistake with the rebound, tucking it in left-footed.

After that goal, Colón surprisingly started to make headway, slowly, tentatively edging forwards, and having particular joy down their right flank, from where a few balls were launched which gave centre-back Monzón some problems. From dead balls especially, the visitors looked in with a chance, and Ischia stood on the sidelines shouting at his men more than at any point so far in his time at Boca.

In the 38th minute, though, his nerves were calmed with a fine goal from Gracián, who ran onto a knock-down from Martín Palermo and beat a defender, then goalkeeper Blázquez, before finishing strongly past Ariel Garcé, who was rushing back to cover but couldn’t get there in time to bail his team-mates out. The next seven minutes were more subdued, and at half-time Boca led 2-0.

The second half started as slowly as the first had ended, with Boca fully aware that they were controlling and keeping their opponents at arm’s length. Mauricio Caranta had to make a couple of good saves but by and large, Boca weren’t stretched. With eight minutes to go, Colón’s Germán Rivarola was sent off for manhandling Neri Cardozo, and it looked like game over. Ironically, it was after this that they got their consolation – in the third minute of stoppage time a failed free kick came back to Colón’s defenders, who lofted into the box and it pinged around over people’s heads for a moment before César González bunged it in.

Boca lead the standings for now, then, and Colón are still mired deep in relegation trouble, although they surely wouldn’t have expected a massive upturn in fortunes prior to this match.

For those who’ve forgotten, Lanús don’t play Newell’s until tomorrow night, so the normal scores / scorers rundown, and video resume of the weekend’s goals, will be following on a day later than normal this week.

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