8 mins: Shortly after Nico Domingo drags a shot just wide, Matías Abelairas has an attempt from an improbable range with his left foot which flashes just over Boca ‘keeper Roberto Abbondanzieri’s goal.
13 mins: The last five minutes have been largely pressure from River with Boca making occasional forays into the home side’s half. Not very much doing on either side though.
14 mins: Corner to Boca after Daniel Vega punches a high cross just over Martín Palermo’s head.
16 mins: Nothing comes of the corner and River go up the other end and lose the ball, before Juan Román Riquelme is taken out by a Paulo Ferrari tackle as he runs down the left touchline into River’s third of the pitch. It’s settling into an end-to-end game as we enter the middle of the first half.
22 mins: River, oddly since they’re bloody useless as opposed to Boca’s at least semi-competence, have looked the more creative team for the most part, but are being let down so far by the fact that, with three playmakers across the front, they’ve not got anyone whose job is simply to stick the thing in the net.
24 mins: PENALTY FOR RIVER Diego Buonanotte runs onto a lofted pass into the right channel and is unceremoniously bungled to the ground by Riquelme. A chance for the home side to take the lead…
25 mins: SAVED! Marcelo Gallardo aims low to Abbondanzieri’s left but the former national team man gets down to divert it round the post for a corner.
28 mins: Another foul on Buonanotte. Every time he plays against Boca he spends the entire match being pushed over. River get a free kick 25 yards out after a push from Gabriel Paletta…
28 mins: ¡GOLAZO DE RIVER! well that makes up for the saved penalty! Gallardo steps up and gets the better of his nemesis of three minutes earlier, sending the ball screaming into the top corner. 1-0 to River.
32 mins: Boca are pushing River back in search of a quick equaliser, but their centre forwards aren’t seeing anything like enough of the ball. Daniel Vega come out to save well at the feet of Fabián Monzón, but otherwise River are actually defending sort of competently.
33 mins: Great save from Abbondanzieri at his near post after Abelairas finds himself in with a chance at close range! River waste the corner and Abbondanzieri will restart the game.
37 mins: Monzón tries to get a run going but almost as soon as he hares off, Domingo trips him. From the corner Boca work the ball forward, but although they’re keeping possession and edging towards the goal, River are by and large keeping plenty of men between the ball and the goal. Under Leonardo Astrada, are we seeing a new, more organised side to River’s defensive play?
42 mins: Presumably stuff has been happening on the pitch in the last five minutes, but those of us watching the TV pictures can’t be sure because the Argentine government seem to think that ‘Fútbol para todos‘ should also mean lots of shots of fishing boats on the Río De La Plata midway through the first half. We get the game back just as Buonanotte gets pulled back for offside, prior to a minor confrontation with Abbondanzieri which ends good-naturedly.
45 mins: As the first half enters stoppage time, River are stroking the ball about, alternating some relaxed passing with the odd hoof up from the back which gives possession to Boca in positions far too deep to do any damage.
45 mins+2: Federico Insúa sends a cross to the far post but Boca haven’t got anyone challenging for it. Goal kick to River.
HALF TIME. Boca have probably seen about as much of the ball as their hosts, but to think this is a team who not twelve months ago were on their way to a championship is astonishing. Martín Palermo’s face mask (to protect the fractured nose he picked up playing in El Monumental for Argentina against Uruguay) might be putting him off, but whatever the reason, they’ve lacked presence up front. River have hardly been incisively brilliant going forward themselves, but even in the mess that Astrada is now trying to lift them out of, they’ve completely smothered Boca so far and take a deserved lead into the break.
First half Highlights:
Gallardo penalty saved by Abbondanzieri:
46 mins: The second half gets underway and River are on the front foot from the off. Half time substitution for Boca: Gary Medel replaces Hugo Ibarra.
47 mins: River left back Cristian Villagra is off! A late challenge on Osvaldo Gaitán sees him pick up his second booking. At least the free kick in the middle of River’s half is easily defended.
50 mins: Julio César Cáceres is off! A half-hearted pass upfield from the centre half is cut out by Buonanotte, and at the same time Ariel Ortega runs up to give him a childish nudge after the ball is gone. Cáceres’s reaction is to swing a foot at Ortega’s leg and the River forward goes down holding his face. The resultant straight red might well have been given anyway, but Ortega realy should have been disciplined for his reaction there as well.
52 mins: Gaitán cuts in from the right and shoots left footed, but it’s straight at Vega, who saves easily.
54 mins: Insúa has a shot from the left of the box. Again, it’s straight at Vega, but for the first time in the match Boca are actually looking the equal of their hosts here.
55 mins: Gallardo and Sebastián Battaglia come together in midfield and Boca have a free kick. Riquelme sends it over to Insúa on the left but he’s crowded out and River come away with a throw in.
58 mins: Riquelme has a go from range which is pushed out for a corner by Vega – the corner’s wasted and Vega easily smothers the ball when it’s played back in.
60 mins: Substitution for River. Maximiliano Coronel replaces the goalscorer, Marcelo Gallardo.
63 mins: ¡GOL DE BOCA! Martín Palermo, who’s playing the second half without his mask, scores at El Monumental for the second match running following that all-important winner against Peru for Argentina. A ball into River’s box is scuffed to him and his first-time finish from the edge of the box is true and straight into the bottom corner, just beyond Vega’s reach. 1-1.
64 mins: Boca substitution. Crístian Chávez replaced Federico Insúa.
66 mins: The goal aside, River are still playing with a little more of what Spanish-speakers call ‘verticality’ in going towards their opponents’ goal – Abelairas has just seen a centre clear everyone after getting right to the byline.
67 mins: Free kick to Boca, about 30 yards out, following a foul on Palermo. Riquelme’s standing on his own over the ball.
68 mins: From almost the exact spot Gallardo scored from in the first half, Riquelme curls the ball over the crossbar.
73 mins: A River free kick from some distance out is headed away from the back by a Boca defender and River’s throw in, near the corner flag on their right wing, is wasted. Boca’s counter is cut out by Villagra.
73 mins: So close to a second goal for River! Buonanotte took down what looked like a lost ball and skinned Monzón on the touchline before cutting in from the right and going past Paletta. Then he picked out Abelairas racing into totally unmarked space on the other side of the box, but the onrushing midfielder’s shot across Abbondanzieri hit the face of the post and bounced out. Gallardo, wide on the right, took it down but wasn’t able to work anything more from it.
77 mins: Substitution for River. Ariel Ortega is replaced by Cristian Fabbiani.
Substitution for Boca. Fabián Monzón is replaced by Juan Krupoviesa.
79 mins: Gaitán again cuts in and has a shot, but there’s nothing special about it and it flashes wide.
82 mins: Crístian Chávez is fouled by Coronel just outside the right-hand (as Boca view it) corner of River’s penalty box, and Riquelme goes for goal inside the near post from the free kick – strongly pushed away by Vega.
85 mins: Paulo Ferrari gets a yellow card for going into the back of an opponent. Moments earlier, a Riquelme free kick from near the halfway line was hit just too far ahead of Paletta for the former Liverpool centre back to get his head to it.
86 mins: River substitution. Diego Buonanotte is replaced by Mauro Díaz. That’s River’s last change.
89 mins: Riquelme is brought down and takes a free kick around 40 yards out, dead central. It’s easily dealt with by River and for a few seconds it looks like they’re going to sweep the ball back up the pitch to counter, but the move breaks down and it ends up in Roberto Abbondanzieri’s arms as we enter stoppage time.
90 mins+2: The ball falls to Chávez after a Riquelme through pass, and he looks to be clean through until Cabral comes in with a brilliant clearing tackle to put it out for a corner. From that corner, River counter but the move ends in a Boca throw in with thirty seconds left on the clock, and that’s taken to Abbondanzieri…
In spite of both teams’ bad present moments, that wasn’t a bad match. That being said the finish wasn’t as frantic as the closing minutes of a super in which one or both teams are actually fighting for something at the end of the championship. Perhaps it’s fitting, given that both sides are living to some extent off past reputations at present, that two club legends got the goals. And with Ramón Díaz watching from the stands after being accorded a standing ovation by the home fans prior to the match, the question has to be asked: was this more disciplined and inventive performance a start to Leonardo Astrada turning the team round, perhaps?