Independiente’s poor start to the season continues, whilst for Racing, the next fixture might just be looked upon with a little more optimism. El Rojo were leading as the away team in El Cilindro thanks to a Daniel Montenegro strike five minutes before the break, but as the match looked like it was dying, with one last desparate effort, full back Franco Sosa grabbed an equaliser to give Racing a point and – perhaps – a point to start looking forward from in their season.
With both sides having endured disappointing starts to the season – Racing’s relegation woes continuing from last year and Independiente’s return to continental action ending at the first hurdle against Estudiantes in midweek – this was one clásico guaranteed to be a tense and edgy affair, but also one that, whilst wanting a win above anything, both sides were desparate not to lose for reasons that went far beyond local bragging rights. There were even rumours, prior to the game, that a bad result could have led to Racing manager Juan Manuel Llop’s resignation.
La Academia looked to take the game to their visitors early on, and it was just minutes in that Pablo Lugüercio was missing a great chance to put them into the lead after finding himself alone in the box, and minutes later the same striker, set up by Claudio Yacob, headed against the crossbar. The tension was building further and Racing were already feeling frustrated. Fabián Assman in the Independiente goal was so shaken that he came out dreadfully for one cross, Leandro Gioda saving his blushes with a clearance. Racing were dominating the first half, and all of it driven on by Maxi Moralez, the man who’d been a doubt to play until hours before kick off thanks to an injury during the week.
As so often though, Racing’s problem was that during the time they spent on top of the match, they couldn’t force the scoreboard to tell the story they wanted their fans to hear. As Independiente countered down the left shortly before the break, Pablo Migliore, until then a virtual spectator in Racing’s goal, cleared straight to Daniel Montenegro and the playmaker, having done nothing for the first forty minutes, made no mistake to send the visitors in with the lead at the break.
In spite of the lead, Claudio Borghi wasn’t happy with his team’s performance, and withdrew Federico Higuaín to send on Adrián Calello at half time. When the second half begun, though, it seemed that the blow of Montenegro’s goal had demoralised Racing, who didn’t show the same energy to attack as previously. Young attacking midfielder Juan Ignacio Sánchez Sotelo replaced Lihué Prichoda in the 55th minute, but hopes of increasing the pressure on Independiente were dealt a severe blow when, seven minutes later, Moralez had to be taken off as his injury proved too much to carry. Leandro González came on but the man who’d dictated so much of Racing’s good play in the opening period was leaving the match.
As Racing pressed forward with more force and desire than intelligence, Independiente dropped back, holding them at arm’s length to try and protect their lead, and when Racing were able to get through the defensive stranglehold, poor finishing continued to put paid to their efforts. But right at the death, when the match appeared lost, up popped Sosa to finally hand Racing an equaliser that was probably a lot less than their efforts had deserved. As El Cilindro went mad, it still wasn’t clear whether Llop will be staying or not. Racing have at least, though, cranked up the pressure on Borghi as well, and have played good football in a high-pressure game. If they can use this as the springboard, they could push their season on from here, but for now they’re reduced to celebrating a draw in the clásico de Avellaneda as if it was the win they deserved.