Editorial: The 2008 Clausura review

Having left a week aside for Gimnasia de Jujuy and (especially) Racing fans to recover from their celebrations upon surviving, it’s time to look back on another campaign in Primera A. It’s been a momentous one for a number of clubs. Racing’s survival joy was doubled by news that Blanquiceleste were out, River ended a long (by their standards) run without a title and San Lorenzo staged some amazing comebacks in the Copa Libertadores. So who’s got reason to celebrate, and which clubs will be disappointed? The highest-scoring matches and the goal of the season are right here…

Grinning from ear to ear:

Of course, River Plate are the big winners here, ending a four-year title drought under the stewardship of Diego Simeone, whose management career is already rocketing skyward. The Clausura as a whole saw a return to form after the madness of two ‘small’ clubs occupying the top two places at the end of the Apertura. Of the top six, four were grandes and neither Estudiantes nor Vélez could exactly be described as ‘small’, so there were few overachievers as such. The La Plata side, though, deserve credit for continuing to challenge for titles a full 18 months after their 2006 Apertura win, having suffered the loss of manager Diego Simeone to River at the start of the year.

Rosario Central, bottom of the Apertura with just two wins, were 9th in the Clausura and can look to the future with renewed optimism. Taking the season as a whole, though, Argentinos’ qualification for the Copa Sudamericana also deserves a mention, as does Tigre’s far more comfortable than expected year. Expected to battle against relegation, they’re midtable on the full season standings, and very nearly won the Apertura. Well done them.

Disappointments:

It would be harsh to put either of the relegated sides in here, because realistically Olimpo and San Martín both knew they were going to struggle all alone. For Olimpo, though, relegation was agonising because in the final weeks they came so close to rescuing themselves. Champions Lanús were 16th after the decision to put all their eggs in the basket of the Copa Libertadores affected domestic form badly, and Boca merit mention here for failing to win the Copa, especially given the manner in which they went out; the better side than Fluminense, but lacking enough edge to see them off.

Really there’s one disappointment above all others, though, and you know who it is already: step forward Racing. Bottom of the Clausura, with two wins and a pathetic 14 goals scored. Hideously bad luck at times, and they eventually survived in the Promoción, but the Promedio system was brought in to give the big clubs every chance of not getting into a relegation battle in the first place, so they really don’t have any excuse for what’s gone on on the pitch. Blanquiceleste are out and the team will surely be stripped right down and reconstructed for the new season, so there’s hope for the future. But even the most ardent of fans can’t put a happy gloss on a dreadful season.

What a lot of goals!

A constant in our seasonal reviews is to point out how many goals were scored this season, and it’s a nice high average again. We’ve gone from 2.5 per match in last year’s Clausura, to 2.55555 in the Apertura, to 481 goals in the 190 matches (Promoción) not included for this stat) to give us 2.53 goals per match. Highest-scoring were two eight-goal matches: Lanús 2 – 6 Arsenal on the 13th weekend, and Boca 6 – 2 Tigre on the final day. Vélez’s opening weekend thriller against Colón featured seven, as did Estudiantes vs. Newell’s on the third weekend and Banfield’s 4-3 against Huracán in the 12th round. If I listed all the matches which featured six goals, never mind five, this would turn into the longest paragraph ever written anywhere on the internet, so excuse me if I don’t.

There’s no competition at all for the side whose matches featured the most goals in this campaign. Banfield were the highest scorers with thirty-six. How, you ask, did they manage to finish in only 12th? Well, because they had a goal difference of zero. That’s right: played 19, scored 36, conceded 36. Having taken the ‘most goals’ title at the end of the Apertura, new champions River have dropped down the entertainment list: the tightest defence (or rather, best goalkeeper) combined with an attack featuring Sebastián Abreu as its leading man doesn’t make for lots of goals. Whose matches should you avoid? Huracán. 15 scored, 17 conceded. They really shouldn’t have let Ossie go…

Best newcomer:

I’m going to go for an odd one here, because he’s not featured extensively so far, but Boca Juniors starlet Cristian Chávez has impressed in the few appearances he made in league and Copa towards the end of the season. He’s got involved at crucial moments (most memorably, it’s true, when he pushed the ball to a team-mate for the equaliser against Racing with his hand) and cut in energetically from the flanks, as well as showing a good range of passing from the centre of the pitch. If Juan Román Riquelme’s fits of pique and reported arguments with Martín Palermo continue to escalate, maybe Boca won’t be looking too far for a replacement…

Player of the Clausura

Sorry to keep blowing my own trumpet, but after picking him as the Apertura’s best newcomer back in December, and having told you all, eleven months ago, to keep an eye on him in 2007-2008, Diego Buonanotte finished the Clausura as his club’s top scorer and one of the highest assist-makers as River Plate won the title. Alongside an intermittently brilliant Ariel Ortega, Buonanotte shone, adding steel and more of an edge to the undoubted promise he’d already shown under Daniel Passarella in the Apertura. Crediting the more professional side of his game to new boss Diego Simeone, Buonanotte’s gone from struggling to get on the bench for the reserves, to first name on the first-team teamsheet at River, in the space of twelve months. And he’s staying exactly where he is for now, so look forward to more of the same next season…

The best goals:

A very, very tricky choice indeed, because there have been some absolute beauties scored in this campaign. With honourable mentions due to Martín Morel of Tigre, Jairo Patiño of Banfield and Gabriel Hauche of Argentinos, all of whom scored goals worthy of winning the title in another league, or another season(amongst many others of similar quality), I’ve got a 1-2-3, and it looks like this:

3rd place

OK, they’re already 3-0 up, but the way Agustín Pelletieri turns two opposing defenders first one way, then the other, then back again, before beating the ‘keeper at pace is brilliant.

2nd place

Olimpo went down, but not for want of trying. Along the way, Diego Barrado scored this absolutely wonderful solo goal against San Lorenzo.

Goal of the Clausura

Against the champions of South America, Boca Juniors, Vélez Sársfield midfielder Damián Escudero picked up the ball in midfield and started running, and just kept on going. If Lionel Messi had scored this goal for Barcelona, you’d never have been allowed to forget about it…

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