River Plate will be going into next weekend’s superclásico looking down on Boca Juniors from the top of the Primera A table, after they returned to winning ways against Argentinos Juniors thanks to a spectacular performance from their teenage wunderkid Diego Buonanotte. El Enano scored twice, was key in the third, and showed composure and class throughout the match as River triumphed 4-2 in an entertaining game. Boca, in the buildup to a big week for both sides, lost out to San Lorenzo, who now prepare to host River in the Copa Libertadores on Wednesday.
For River, it was the perfect preparation for a massive week which will define the seasons of a number of Argentina’s big clubs. On Wednesday, River travel to the Nuevo Gasometro to take on San Lorenzo in the first leg of the all-Argentine Copa Libertadores last 16 tie. On Sunday, they travel to La Bombonera. Diego Simeone, however, insists on thinking only of the next match, and to that end he fielded five players – Paulo Ferrari, Gustavo Cabral, Cristián Villagra, Radamel Falcao García and Matías Abelairas – who were just one yellow card away from being suspended for the match with Boca. Juan Pablo Carrizo, in goal, was as important as ever for a River who seem to have some problems shoring up their backline – he made a crucial save from Gabriel Hauche when the Argentinos forward might have made it 3-3. The man of the match, though, was Buonanotte, now well and truly established as the latest ‘next big thing’ of Argentine football.
In spite of some slightly lacklustre showings by his colleagues, Buonanotte shone, causing no end of problems for Argentinos’ backline and opening the scoring with a wonderful strike just over half an hour in, which La Nación called ‘a jewel’, and which Olé went so far as to say, ‘should be recorded and played over and over in these times of footballing want.’ Picking the ball up on the right, Buonanotte ran diagonally across the pitch before unleashing a left-footed drive from outside the area which cannoned in off Sebastián Torrico’s post. In the aftermath of the opening strike, though, it was River who lost their concentration, and Alejandro Delorte was able to equalise five minutes before the break, pouncing after Juan Mercier had gathered a loose ball in the River box.
In the second half, the lead was retaken early on by Buonanotte, who got his second of the afternoon with a little help from a defensive deflection. With another opportunity, River took better control with their lead. Leonardo Ponzio was running the game from midfield whilst Buonanotte continued to wreak havoc in Argentinos’ backline. Now, Falcao and Abreu helped him out more, finding the movement to cause a few difficulties themselves. Again, though, Argentinos struck back – thanks to a penalty only the referee saw – through Pablo Barzola, in the 57th minute.
This time it wasn’t to last. Four minutes on, Buonanotte – him again – won the ball and began a move which saw the ball pass from him to Ortega, then to Villagra and Abelairas, all of whom knocked it on first time, in the case of the latter for Sebastián Abreu to put the finish on a wonderful team goal. Shortly after, Carrizo made his most vital save of the day in a one-on-one with Hauche, and with Nicolás Domingo sent on in place of Abreu, Simeone sought to close out the game in the midfield. As the minutes passed, deep into stoppage time, River countered and Falcao put the destination of the points beyond doubt. 4-2 to River, who, as well as this, had avoided any bookings to their potentially suspended players.
Boca, a few hours later, lost their unbeaten record for the domestic campaign in the clásico against San Lorenzo, and will be receiving River next Sunday from four points behind them in the table – and also behind San Lorenzo, since the win enabled the hosts to leapfrog Boca into third place. Juan Carlos Menseguez got the only goal of the match after just two minutes, and the visitors couldn’t level thereafter. Frustrations boiled over in stoppage time, as Fabián Vargas was sent off – he’ll miss next Sunday’s super.