The goals from the 2-2 draw between Arsenal de Sarandí and Argentinos Juniors are online now at last, and are embedded below for your viewing pleasure. Now I’m finally able to say I’ve enjoyed a weekend of football action as HEGS author in Buenos Aires, I can also attempt something new to HEGS – you’ll find here a brief roundup of some of the main talking points from three days of action. They included an emotional return – and an emotional debut – at the Monumental, a court appearance for Juan Román Riquelme, a renewed contract for one manager, a resignation from another, and Ricardo Gareca making an utter, utter tool of himself in the aftermath of an epic match in Avellaneda.
I’ll start by saying that it’s been wonderful to enjoy two games in the company of friends – I went to River vs Godoy Cruz with Joel Richards, and was able to get up to Belgrano to watch Racing vs Vélez on TV with Seba and his wife, and their lovely new son Felipe Apolo. Nice to finally make the acquaintance of my one-time Enganche podcast colleagues.
And so to the action. The manager to leave his job this weekend was Chacarita Juniors’ Mauro Navas, who was already the club’s second boss of 2009-2010. Navas replaced Fernando Gamboa but after starting with an amazing 4-1 win over Boca Juniors he was only in charge for five matches. According to Navas, Chaca had intended to get rid of five players as a response to the team’s poor performance, but Navas didn’t agree with the directors’ decision and thus has had his contract annulled. That victory against Boca had been followed up by four defeats in a row, the last of which came on Saturday at home to fellow relegation strugglers Atlético Tucumán. El Funebrero have named Luis Marabotto as interim boss until the end of the season. Suggestions that an argument with Chacarita’s barra brava last week also had a part in his decision were knocked back by Navas.
Also on Saturday, the Estadio Monumental saw two returns long awaited by the fans: the first and most tangible was that of Diego Buonanotte to the field of play. Buonanotte hadn’t featured since killing his three best friends in a car crash in the early hours of Boxing Day, but having scored a golazo in training for the reserves during the week, he took to the pitch to a standing ovation on Saturday as a replacement for Gustavo Canales in the 57th minute. He did more in his first five minutes on the pitch than Canales had managed all game, as River turned the match on its head in the space of two minutes to win 2-1 against the then leaders. This was the second, less tangible ‘return’ – the return of River’s drive and attacking verve. It was by no means perfect, but it was a much better performance than I’d been expecting for my own return to the Monumental (the last time I went to a match there, River were crowned champions of the 2004 Clausura).
That spirit was down in no small part to Ángel Cappa, the man who’s charged with saving River from the dread of the Promedio next season. With the 2008 Clausura victory thus far propping them up, but being taken out of the average table at the end of this season, new president Daniel Passarella clearly felt he couldn’t take a chance on Leonardo Astrada taking any longer to get the team playing again. Cappa seemed a popular choice with the fans at the Monumental – like Buonanotte he got an ovation, and the fact that his debut as manager brought a much-improved performance and the team’s first win in five matches will give gallinas plenty of hope for the future.
Cappa was the subject of rather less kind words from Vélez Sársfield boss Ricardo Gareca the following evening. On Sunday, Vélez were well beaten by Racing in El Cilindro in a match which had absolutely everything. After taking the lead through a dreadfully defended corner shortly before half time, Vélez saw the hosts rally with three goals in five minutes to win the match, but that didn’t tell even half the story. A large part of the match was played under an absolute downpour which at one stage looked like it might see the game called off. There was a riot in the cavernous stands of the stadium after one or two Racing fans took exception to the Vélez fans in the upper tier of the away section, which again almost looked like the match would be postponed as a result, but referee Javier Collado decided to play on. Vélez’s Ricardo Alvarez was also sent off, and the culmination of all this made Gareca very cross indeed.
‘We were marked [by the authorities] as we always are,’ raged Gareca to the TV cameras after the game, evidently forgetting how his team were handed last year’s Clausura title by several outrageous decisions in the ‘final’ against Huracán. Whether Gareca was referring to the referee’s decision to continue the match, or to Alvarez’s sending off, or to darker forces he feels are at work in the AFA, remained unsaid. But Alvarez’s red card was just – he committed a foul then shouted at the referee when he got booked for it – and Gareca benefited enormously just under a year ago when another match wasn’t called off which should have been. The idiots fighting in the stands of the Estadio Juan Domingo Perón might have cost Racing points, but that was no excuse for Vélez to simply go to sleep when the match did restart.
Julio César Falcioni has been called ‘the Alex Ferguson of Banfield’ on Monday after signing a contract extension for another two years. Even in a country where managerial job security is at a premium, that seems a slightly stupid comment to make; he’s only been in charge for just over a year, albeit that he’s won a league title with the club already (their first in the professional era). The extension was perfectly timed, though, to ward off interest from Boca Juniors, who are the latest club to reportedly express an interest in bringing Falcioni in as boss.
For their own part Boca have had an interesting few days. On Sunday, Juan Román Riquelme appeared not in El Bosque – where his team were beaten by Gimnasia La Plata by a single brilliantly taken goal from Colombian Marcos Pérez – but in a court summons, where he was called upon to give a statement to clarify a comment in a press conference last week. Riquelme had claimed that on the 11th of April he was threatened in the club’s training complex by a few members of La Doce, the club’s barra brava, and the justice department took an interest. Riquelme didn’t even get the chance to say chau to his now ex team-mate, the Brazilian defender Luiz Alberto, who has left after just a few months at Boca after terminating his contract.
Arsenal Fútbol Club 2 – 2 Argentinos Juniors
You can follow the Clausura and the Argentine sides in the 2010 Copa Libertadores via HEGS on Twitter (including updates during and between matches and similar stories that might not go up on the site until later). I’m slowly gaining followers, but if you’ve not signed up yet you can do so here.