In circumstances about as controversial as they come, and after thirteen minutes of second half stoppage time, Vélez Sársfield beat Huracán by a single late goal from Maxi Moralez – who was sent off for his celebration – to climb above them in the table and claim the Torneo Clausura 2009 title. Huracán had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside early on, before the match was almost called off due to a hail storm of Biblical proportions. When play restarted a tense match was deadlocked almost throughout, until Maxi popped up.
The match had started brightly for Huracán, with El Globo getting on the front foot right away against their hosts, in spite of the fact that a draw for Angel Cappa’s Huracán would have seen the championship trophy heading back to Parque Patricios. Eduardo Domínguez thought he’d put Huracán in the driving seat as early as the eighth minute when he headed into an unguarded net, but the linesman decided – completely and obviously incorrectly – that Domínguez had been offside. Injustice for Huracán, but it would get much worse.
Nineteen minutes in, a hailstorm set in that threatened to demolish the Estadio José Amalfitani, never mind make things difficult for the players. Referee Gabriel Brazenas called the players off the pitch and they returned to the dressing rooms for half an hour, during which time it looked like the match might very well be called off – at one point that seemed to be exactly what Angel Cappa thought was happening. In the end, though, with hailstones the size of Volkswagens littering the pitch, the teams returned to the field to play the final 71 minutes.
Huracán’s neat passing game was inevitably disrupted by the surface, and Vélez, used to playing a more direct game and with their home crowd behind them, poured forward. Just five minutes after the match had recommenced, they had a penalty after Carlos Araujo stupidly brought Juan Manuel Martínez down in the box. Rodrigo López placed the penalty firmly to goalkeeper Gastón Monzón’s right – and saw the kick turned round the post. The draw Huracán needed was still very much on. Both sides went close before the break – López having one disallowed correctly for offside, and Matías Defederico flashing a shot just wide of Vélez’s post, but the deadlock remained at the break.
In the second half, both Javier Pastore and Matías Defederico found it difficult to lift themselves above the mire of Huracán’s general performance. Mario Bolatti was keeping Vélez’s midfield at bay superbly, but his team-mates for Huracán couldn’t match his standard. At the base of Vélez’s midfield, Franco Razzotti, who’s been understatedly superb for much of this championship after returning from Sporting Cristal in Peru in January, was doing the same to frustrate Huracán’s attacks, and sending Vélez’s more advanced players forward with frequency.
Seven minutes remained of the ninety when the championship turned. After the earlier controversies over the wrongly disallowed goal and the lingering suspicion that the match really shouldn’t have gone ahead given the condition of the pitch following the hail, all hell broke loose as Vélez countered, Joaquín Larrivey fouled Monzón in the Huracán goal, and former Racing forward Maxi Moralez pounced on the loose ball to stab home. Referee Brazenas saw nothing wrong, and suddenly Vélez were topping the table with just minutes to go.
Moralez tore of his shirt in celebration and received a second yellow card for his troubles, but it was about two minutes before Brazenas showed him the red. Incensed at seeing the championship snatched from their grasp at the death, by a goal which shouldn’t have stood, and after having had a perfectly good one of their own disallowed earlier in the game, Huracán’s bench – substitutes and technical team – made their feelings known and the result was a hold-up which resulted in 13 minutes of stoppage time and the sort of atmosphere which suggested Brazenas and his assistants might not escape the stadium at full time.
When the game got back underway, Huracán attacked desperately and saw a shot saved by Germán Montoya right on the goal line after a hectic scramble in the goalmouth. Vélez broke late on and Larrivey missed a chance to put the match to bed, but ultimately it didn’t matter. Vélez held out, and are the champions of Argentina.
Vélez and Huracán always had what might be termed a ‘minor’ rivalry even before this match, but the encounter was of the sort that can create a new clásico, such was the level of feeling and controversy on both sides, and the circumstances it was played in. Look out for this match-up when the new season’s fixture lists are released, because it’s going to be a very tasty one.