¡Boca Campeón!

Hugo Ibarra lifts the Primera A trophy aloft
Hugo Ibarra lifts the Primera A trophy aloft

In the end it was the most nail-biting of finishes, as Tigre tried and tried to break down Boca’s resistance, but the most incredible of titles wasn’t to be. Boca lost the match, 1-0, to a Leandro Lázzaro header midway through the second half – but with all three sides tied on three points in the three-team mini-league, they take the 2008 Torneo Apertura title on goal difference.

The first half was tense as Tigre, who knew they had to win by two clear goals in order to claim the title, were intimidated by the size of their task. Boca came towards them looking to dominate possession and push their opponents back, and by and large, the plan worked. Tigre’s substitute goalkeeper, Luis Ardente, was forced into a couple of saves, one in particular after twenty minutes when he got down well to a powerfully-struck shot from Luciano Figueroa.

Tigre, though, pressed well defensively and, looking for Martín Morel swiftly when they got the ball, they weren’t moving forward without some menace of their own. They largely played an aerial game, but Javier García, Boca’s own goalkeeper – also a stand-in, albeit one who’s had a bit of a run in the team of late – was doing as well as his opposite number in picking out the centres sent towards the head of Leandro Lázzaro.

At half time, all square on the night, Boca were the better side in the match, and on course for the title. But they hadn’t managed to find the goal that would kill off Tigre’s resolve, and went to the dressing room knowing that their opponents would surely throw more forward in the second half.

At half time Jesús Dátolo, injured, was replaced by Boca manager Carlos Ischia, and Alvaro González took his place. Boca should have had a more patient approach and a harder midfield to break down as a result of that, but Tigre began to play with more penetration even as Rodrigo Palacio, replacing Figueroa in the 55th minute, gave Boca more pace up front.

The goal arrived halfway through the second half, and when it came Tigre had earned it. Matías Giménez sent over a high cross from the left which Leandro Lázzaro rose to head in with Boca ‘keeper García standing flat-footed and looking an utter tool. Suddenly, although they were still on course to claim the title, Boca would lose their grip on the trophy if they conceded another.

Ischia could hardly have filled his defence with confidence under such circumstances, when he immediately replaced García with Josué Ayala, who thus made his first-team debut for Boca. With Morel disappearing for Tigre, they failed to take advantage of Boca’s most nervous period of the match. There were flurries – the match opened out, in the last fifteen minutes or so, into a thrilling end-to-end affair which saw Tigre goalkeeper Ardente make another decent save from a Gracián shot one moment, and start a counter which led into Boca’s area the next.

In the end, though, eventually Boca were triumphant. Even without Riquelme, and with goalkeeping uncertainty continuing actually during the match, Boca were able to do enough to claim another title – their 23rd of the professional era, and their 29th overall in Argentine league history. Another star on the badge for the 2009 shirt, and a hard-fought and well-earned trophy to end a fascinating Torneo Apertura and give their fans a very pleasant early Christmas present.

A sidenote, to end the most successful campaign in their history: Tigre beat the eventual winners twice in this Apertura, and finish as runners-up. And they still don’t qualify for the Copa Libertadores. Sort it out, AFA!

Boca Juniors 0 –  1 Tigre (Primera División A Torneo Apertura 2008, title playoff):

A look back on the 2008 Torneo Apertura will be up on the site by the weekend. But as most readers will be aware, it’s Christmas this week, so you’ll forgive me, I’m sure, if it’s not quite as prompt as it would otherwise have been.

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8 thoughts on “¡Boca Campeón!

  1. Happy Christmas Sam!

    Wasn’t Garcia injured and that’s why he couldn’t jump with Lazzaro? At the other end, how good was Ardente? 13 matches in the Third division, 14 in the Second or whatever it was, but Tigre can’t say he let them down apart from one scary moment. Great save he made from Gracian.

    If Tigre have to blame one of their own, it’s probably Morel. In both play-off games, he disappeared when Tigre needed him most, which is a shame… the Morel of just a few weeks ago would have buried the one-on-one he had with Garcia in the first half and Tigre would now be champions.

    It’s very frustrating to have watched week after week a fascinating story unfold only to find at the end… Boca champions yet again undeservedly, rather like that gutting 2005 season when I really thought our Gimnasia friends were gonna do it.

    GELP disintergrated swiftly after that, but being drawn into the Libertadores the next Feb ended up being more of a hindrance.

    If Cagna stays – and the Bianchi-Ischia dupla at Boca might suggest the big job he presumably craves is not yet ready for him – and he can keep this team together (a tall order in Jan, I know), could Tigre take advantage of five big sides in the Libertadores and try and aim to win the Clausura in one last big campaign?

  2. It’s a shame that Riquelme couldn’t play in this match. Also, it would have been nice to see Tigre win the Apertura, it would have been good for Argentine football.

    Merry christmas Sam, hope you have a good day!

  3. Merry Christmas to all! It’s been great this year learning so much about the inner workings of other clubs, from both Sam and the knowledgable hinchas here.

  4. Thanks everyone, merry Christmas to all of you as well. It’s 3am here in the UK now which means it’s also Christmas Day in Argentina as I type – hope Seba and all our other Argentina-based readers are having a good nochebuena!

  5. Merry Christmas to all at HEGS!

    It was a great end to the season to be honest, full of drama, though the ultimate twist at the end did not occur as I was perhaps hoping it would. Still, Boca made a good fist of it and deserve their title in the end I guess. And River Plate bottom! The sweetest Xmas possible for Boca fans.

    I’ve written up a report on the match here for anyone interested, I hope Sam you don’t mind me posting the link. Happy Holidays!

    http://www.just-football.com/2008/12/tears-for-tigre-boca-juniors-crowned.html

  6. Sam,

    As predicted previously a 2 goal win was just too much to ask of Tigre but they still had one hell of a season.

    A huge muchas muchas gracias to you for all of your work in the last year on HEGS which continues to evole into a fascinating fountain of knowledge on a fascinationg liga nad pais.

    Thanks again Sam, feliz naviad y un ano prospero nuevo a ti y todos.

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