Estudiantes and Lanús have now played each other three times in official matches this year, and on Friday night a winner of the mini-series finally emerged. After two draws in their Copa Libertadores group matches, including an amazing 3-3 a week-and-a-half ago, this Torneo Clausura match also looked like it was heading towards a deadlock – until Juan Sebastián Verón won it for Estudiantes with a fine late strike.
After the match had started well, albeit with less intent on either side than the 3-3 in El Sur last week, but soon became more edgy, and was characterised by off the ball encounters as much as by any real football being played. After Estudiantes goalkeeper Damián Albil misjudged a cross, Lanús had the game’s first real chance, but visiting striker Germán Cano couldn’t find the finish, his header going just wide. Missing Diego Valeri, Ramón Cabrero’s men felt the playmaker’s absence in the middle and struggled to create much more during the first half. Estudiantes, meanwhile, led by Verón, were looking far more dangerous. At half-time, the champions were a little fortunate to be going in at 0-0.
In the second half the match was slowed, partly by the familiarity between the two sides in recent weeks, and partly by the rain in La Plata, in spite of which Estudiantes still showed clear signs of superiority. As the half developed, Lanús lost midfielder Sebastián Blanco and defender Santiago Hoyos to injury, in spite of which it was still the 70th minute before Leandro Lázzaro saw his side’s best chance thus far go begging, when Lanús goalkeeper Carlos Bossio saved well from his shot. After that, both sides seemed more content to settle for a draw, until Verón struck from the edge of the box with a right-footer than left Bossio flat-footed to settle it. Matías Fritzler was sent off in stoppage time, though what for, the match reports I’m reading don’t make clear.
With these three points, Estudiantes go top of the table, with 20 points, one ahead of River who host Tigre on Sunday. Lanús, the defending champions, are clearly not going to manage a successful defence of the title they won so stunningly in the Apertura – they’re now six matches without a win in the league.