River Plate and Boca Juniors. Undisputably, the two biggest clubs in Argentine football. River, the defending champions in the league. Boca, six times champions of South America, most recently just last year. On Sunday, both were playing much smaller teams. River hadn’t ever lost away to new promoted San Martín, and returned to Tucumán 15 years after their last visit. An hour or two before, Boca, unbeaten at home in over a year and a half, hosted Tigre. Guess what happened.
The two teams alluded to in the headline, you see, are San Martín and Tigre. In La Bombonera the second half didn’t see any goal action, but the first was a five goal thriller, but Tigre raced into a two goal lead thanks to Carlos Luna and Martín Morel with a superb free kick inside twelve minutes, only to be pegged back level by Boca as first Sebastián Battaglia put the hosts back into it, then Jonathan Blanco hit an own goal six minutes later. Parity only lasted four minutes, though, Morel grabbing his second to put Tigre 3-2 up in the 32nd minute.
In the second half, Battaglia having been sent off before half time for Sebastián Rusculleda, Tigre had a man advantage to go with the goal, and held Boca out in a much slower-paced encounter than the frantic first period. At full time, the player embraced to celebrate an historic win. In last year’s Apertura, a Tigre win over Boca in the Monumental de Victoria in the penultimate round ended Boca’s hopes of the title. This time round, a loss to Tigre in front of their own fans has left Boca needing more than ever those three points on offer from the match in hand over Newell’s.
River, a little later, were hardly in a better mood. Needing a win, things seemed perfect; an away match against a newly promoted side, against whom they’d never lost as visitors. Diego Simeone’s men, though, showed that they intend to concentrate instead on the Copa Sudamericana in the current semester. At least, presumably that’s what happened, because after taking an early lead through young defender Omar Merlo, River seemed to slip into cruise control, and were punished for their complacency in the second half.
San Martín drew level before the break through Gustavo Ibáñez, but it was in the final quarter-of-an-hour, as substitutes Daniel Vega, in the 77th minute, and Enzo Bruno in the 87th struck, that the match was decided and the home fans went wild. How long Simeone will last with a team who are still clearly struggling to play as he wants them to and have won just once so far this season remains to be seen. Tigre and San Martín, though, are three and four points, respectively, behind leaders San Lorenzo.