Independiente and Estudiantes will meet next week in the second leg of their Copa Sudamericana first round tie, and on Friday night both sides were in action with the aim of bettering fairly disappointing opening weekend results. Both managed it – just. Estudiantes, who lost to Central on the first weekend, at least got a point this time round in an entertaining match with Banfield, as they maintain an unbeaten run of almost Michael Phelps-like proportions at home, whilst Independinete, at home to newly promoted San Martín de Tucumán, won by a solitary goal, with Darío Gandín once again coming to the rescue.
Estudiantes and Banfield provided a spectacle for the fans in the Estadio Municipal de La Plata in a match that saw three goals in the opening twenty minutes. Marcelo Bustamante put El Taladro ahead after only two minutes after a surprising error from Estudiantes ‘keeper Mariano Andújar gifted him an easy finish, but Gastón Fernández scored his first competitive effort for La Pincha just five minutes later to bring the hosts level. In the 19th minute, Nicolás Bertolo sent in a cross from the right for Banfield which, after striker Jerónimo Barrales had failed to connect cleanly, missed everyone and fell for Luciano Civelli at the far post to make it 2-1 to Banfield.
A breakneck start belied the fact that Banfield were struggling to contain a lively Estudiantes attack, though. La Gata Fernández dropped deep to pull the strings whilst, ahead of him, José Luis Calderón and Mauro Boselli proved a handful for the visiting defenders. Full back Julio Barraza was sent off after 35 minutes for a second bookable offence, and almost immediately, Fernández drew his side back level with his second goal of the evening. Following a long ball up which neither of the strikers could quite control, the former River Plate and San Lorenzo man latched onto the ball and lashed it into the net for 2-2. Ten minutes still remained in the first half, and we’d already had four goals. There were no more to follow in the rest of the match, as the hosts, lacking Seba Verón’s creative drive, sought to close the match out in the second half, despite Banfield’s best efforts. Estudiantes are now 27 matches unbeaten at home.
Independiente, by contrast, had no such comforts as closing out their game in a leisurely fashion. Against a spirited San Martín side, who were the superior unit for most of the match, Darío Gandín popped up in the 89th minute to save Independiente from the kind of blushes experienced by Huracán on the opening weekend. After his late, late winner against Estudiantes in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana tie in midweek, Gandín is already getting into a good habit for Independiente. Will he add another next week?