The wait is over

Celebrations in La Bombonera

It’s been four years since Boca Juniors last beat River Plate in La Bombonera, during which time their sole consolation has been that River haven’t won any trophies and they have done. On Sunday, though, with River arriving in La Boca on top of the league table, the run came to an end thanks to a 14th-minute header from Sebastián Battaglia, and some poor finishing from River’s forwards. It wasn’t all good news for Boca though; two bad injuries, one to playmaker Juan Román Riquelme, will seriously affect their preparations for the second leg of their Copa Libertadores clash with Cruzeiro in the coming week.

Those blows were tempered, though, by a solid win on a day of glorious sunshine in Buenos Aires. As in the last super to be played in La Bombonera, this time last year, Boca dominated the early exchanges and River looked all at sea for much of the first half. Aware at kick off, thanks to Estudiantes’ loss to Argentinos on Saturday evening, that a win would catapult them back into the fight for the Clausura title, Boca came out searching for the way to River’s goal, and the visitors appeared happy to let them do so. Diego Simeone’s men were well-organised in defence, just for a change, and looked intent to play the first half, at least, on the counter. That newfound solidity at the back made it all the more ironic that Boca scored from a corner that had been given to them by Juan Pablo Carrizo, River’s goalkeeper. Rodrigo Palacio raced into the box at an angle and Carrizo did well to push the ball behind.

The corner was swung over by Riquelme and Battaglia beat Leonardo Ponzio to the header and put it past Carrizo, who didn’t stand a chance with it. Simeone’s men, clearly not having planned for an early goal (in spite of the one minute it took Pablo Ledesma to put Boca ahead in the same fixture last year), were rocked. Boca, meanwhile, were calmed by the lead and started knocking the ball around in a slightly more controlled fashion than the  way they’d begun the match (which, for all its effectiveness, seemed at times to consist of little more than putting their heads down and running into River’s area). River meanwhile, obliged to go looking for the ball, didn’t seem to sure of how to go about it; Nicolás Sánchez looked like he wanted to take the ball round his own team-mates, such was his desire to go it alone, whilst Ariel Ortega, newly returned from a spell on the sidelines, was finding it difficult to influence the game in his usual fashion. The match continued in this manner, with the ball never in too much danger of making its way into either goal, for the remainder of the half, although River improved a little bit towards the break.

The second half, when it eventually began after a predictably elongated interval, was a different story. River attacked relentlessly with the hosts only able to fashion the occasional breakaway as Simeone had clearly put a rocket up his team’s collective backside. Nico Sánchez was replaced by Augusto Fernández and Ponzio moved to right back, and with more width came more pressure from River. Boca had their moments – one particularly memorable one from Riquelme almost put Palermo in on goal, but Tuzzio managed a fantastic last-ditch block – but it was all River. And yet somehow, Mauricio Caranta was never pressured unduly – poor finishing cost the visitors.

The best chance of the half fell, after a flowing counter from River, to Sebastián Abreu, who’d replaced Diego Buonanotte midway through the half, but whose towering header sailed narrowly over Caranta’s goal. Towards the end Riquelme had to retire with what looked like cramp – no doubt Boca will risk flying him to Belo Horizonte for the Cruzeiro match – and Claudio Morel Rodríguez, who went down several yards away from the play, looked like he’d twisted his knee. If so, it’ll aggravate an old injury he thought he’d got over, and that might prove a big blow for Boca’s rearguard in the coming weeks.

For the moment, though, the Xeneize can celebrate a league win over their great rivals for the first time in a long time. Estudiantes’ loss yesterday coupled with this result means the top of the table is looking congested – River and Estudiantes both have 27 points, Boca move onto 26 and San Lorenzo, who play Gimnasia in La Plata in a couple of hours, could yet make it even busier. There’s a long way to go yet, but Boca have finally won back the ‘championship-within-a-championship’.

For the goal from this match, and the rest of the weekend in Argentina, check back on Monday night.


7 thoughts on “The wait is over

  1. good to see Boca get the win, although I have read somewhere that the author of this is a River fan? ;-)

    how has Riquelme been doing for Boca this season, is he as idolised by the fans as he was last year?

  2. Hello “Just-Football” ! Riquelme remains a fan favorite but has not been in top form so far. He missed about three weeks or so with a leg problem and had a problem again today that forced him out of the match. Severity currently unknown. He still shows flashes of the JRR brilliance but we Boca fans are awaiting his Libertadores form from last year. Stay tuned.

  3. And I formally offer my condolences to Seba who is probably either suicidal or homicidal, or both right now, following Racing’s devastating extra time loss to Rosario Central.

  4. Thankfully I dedicated my Sunday afternoon to studying instead of watching this match. I heard that Caranta didn’t even shower after the match…
    The only reason why one should go to the match is because of the atmosphere, which is definitely unique.

  5. Thank you John. I was actually very frustrated and depressed last night and I’m in bed with the flu now…

    No wonder I didn’t write here last night. I was destroyed.

    I hate the way in which we are dropping points. If we were outplayed week in, week out, and our rivals were scoring at will and giving us no chance…it’d be a different story. But we actually show up and have chances from kick-off until the 90th minute.

    I was in disbelief last night. Kily González complaining about Salgueiro’s (Estudiantes) goal last week in which the Uruguayan tried to send a cross and scored. Kily was a cry baby last week and now that he is on the winning side and he scores a goal in exactly the same fashion, he kisses his shirt and he takes all the credit as if he had dribbled the entire Racing defense and finished over the keeper’s head. Ridiculous!

    I’m starting to give up and I’m starting to concentrate on the teams that could be our rivals in the Promoción.

    Regarding the Superclasico…what a dull match. Watching it from a neutral point of view and not allowing myself to get motivated by the commentator (who grabbed the mic and added a lot of passion) it turned out to be a very mediocre match.

  6. Nathan, I must disagree, the atmosphere is hardly the “only” reason one should go to the superclasico. If one appreciates football, and enjoys players like Riquelme, Crespo, Ortega, Tevez, Mascherano, etc etc etc, then over the years one would have been well rewarded with some sumptuous football. It just didn’t happen yesterday.

  7. Alot of Boca’s matches are ugly. Not all, but most I’d say. They have become a defensive minded team in this championship, not necessarily by design, but due to some injuries and spotty play by Palacio and even Riquelme. Palermo is reliably unreliable. The defense, despite injuries there as well, is their strength. I think that if Ibarra were healthy and JRR and Palacio were on their games Boca would be just as lethal as they were during last year’s Libertadores. That’s a tough wish list though.:)

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