Independiente were the home side in Vélez’s stadium for the clásico de Avellaneda on Saturday afternoon, and the result was one that didn’t really suit either side. A win for Independiente would have put them in the Copa Sudamericana – one for Racing would have kept them in with a chance of avoiding a relegation playoff. The result was a 0-0 which, if nothing else, wasn’t a drab one.
The match started with Racing pressing and marking tightly as Independiente went forward in search of the opener, and as the minutes passed it was El Rojo, with much less pressure on them, who were playing the better football. Racing’s hard work, though, combined with the unexpected absence of Daniel Montenegro from the starting lineup kept it all square. After Germán Denis had missed one good chance, Hernán Fredes almost broke the deadlock, finding himself all alone in the left channel, but in front of a rapt stadium, his cross-shot beat the goalkeeper but was then cleared off the line by Racing defender Gabriel Mercado.
Racing were, if nothing else, refusing to fall into the trap of their recent matches: a great first half performance followed by let-down in the second forty-five minutes. They did this by not really trying to play in the first period.
In the second, with Montenegro warming up by the bench, Independiente continued to go for it, but once again met with stern resistance from La Academia. Montenegro came off the bench for Gastón Machín in the 50th minute, in an attempt to give the Independiente attack a little more guile, but little by little Racing’s pressing game took them further from their own goal, and by the 60th minute – incredibly – they were playing football in Independiente’s half! In the 68th minute, Reinaldo Navia brilliantly set Roberto Bonnet free and the Paraguayan midfielder’s cross was met powerfully by Facundo Sava. It was Sava’s first chance of the match and he could only watch in agony as it arrowed towards the goal – but just a little too high, and cannoned back off the crossbar. Minutes later, another header went narrowly wide of Fabián Assman’s goal.
The match ended with Montenegro once again injured, just minutes after making his comeback from a long injury layoff, but with little else to show from either side. Independiente aren’t yet out of the running for the Copa Sudamericana. Racing, if Colón lose to River on Sunday, will still be in with a shout – three points behind with two matches left, one of which will be against Colón on the last day. They could yet escape. But were that the case or not, a win in the clásico was just a little too much to hope for, it seems.