Apologies if you’re unable to read HEGS for the next few days. The reason is probably that the server has exploded in sheer confusion. On Saturday night, Racing, who hadn’t won in 12 matches away from home, hadn’t beaten Argentinos away in 12 years, and hadn’t even scored in five matches against this weekend’s opponents, took on Argentinos, who by contrast last lost at home precisely one year and four days ago. The final score? Unbelievable: Argentinos Juniors 0 – 1 Racing Club.
Racing’s form, under Juan Manuel Llop, had been depressing so far this season. Generally speaking their matches went thus: dominate the first half, but fail to score; defend desperately in the second half after losing confidence at half-time, and end up losing the match to a late goal, or one that shouldn’t have stood, or some other injustice (perceived or real). On Saturday, their chances of even having the better of the play in the first period appeared shot before the match started, when first Paraguayan defender Marcos Cáceres (broken nose), and then playmaker Maxi Moralez (right calf) were ruled out.
The match didn’t start well, with neither side really seeming quite sure how to win it in a pattern which continued throughout. In a slow start, Leandro González – Moralez’s replacement in the starting XI – grabbed the goal for the visitors after Argentinos goalkeeper Sebastián Torrico spilled a shot from outside the box. The first half continued in scrappy fashion, and at the break La Academia, amazingly, perhaps in spite of themselves, still led.
The second half began with Racing on the back foot, and continued pretty much uninterrupted in that fashion. At times Racing’s defence got lucky – with the previously unimpressive José Luis Martínez Gullota starting ahead of the more experienced ex-Boca Juniors goalkeeper Pablo Migliore, Argentinos’ forwards missed a couple of good chances, most notably when Nicolás Pavlovich blazed wide from inside the six-yard box after a right-wing cross found him at the near post. At times, though, the last-gasp clearances and gutsy self-sacrificing were in evidence, and with ten minutes or so to play it started to dawn on the watching multitudes that this time, for once, Racing’s opponents weren’t going to find a way through.
Towards the end, in stoppage time, there was even a chance to put the match beyond doubt, but Pablo Caballero shot wide. And when, with virtually the last kick of the match, Argentinos made nothing of a left-wing free kick, the celebrations in the away end hit fever pitch. Last week’s draw against Independiente, after many thought Racing had deserved to win the clásico, was seen by many optimists as a possible turning point. This weekend, Racing won away. It’s now two matches without defeat. Who knows where they could go from here?