Wednesday saw two key clashes in the relegation struggle in Argentina’s Primera División. First, in La Bombonera, Huracán and Gimnasia La Plata faced off in a one-match, winner-takes-all (or rather, loser-gets-nothing) tie-breaker to decide who was relegated and who gets another chance in the relegation playoff. This was because both ended 2010-11 on exactly the same points average. Gimnasia won 2-0, with goals from Lucas Castro and Claudio Graf, to condemn Huracán to the drop, and set up their own playoff against San Martín de San Juan. River Plate, of course, were in action in their playoff against Belgrano de Córdoba. In a game marred by a pitch invasion from a moronic handful of River fans (pictured above grabbing Adalberto Román), which held the second half up by 20 minutes, Belgrano won 2-0, to leave River, for the first time in over a century, as a second division team in all but name. The goals, and more details, are right here.
Club Atlético Huracán 0 – 2 Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata
With Javier Pastore watching from the stands in La Bombonera, Huracán never looked like they were involved in this match, whilst Gimnasia looked as fired-up for it and disciplined as they had when unluckily held to a draw against Boca Juniors on Saturday by Christian Cellay’s late goal which meant they had to play this friendly in the first place. Huracán, by contrast, were a shambles. They were down to nine men before the game was half an hour old, with Dario Soplán and top scorer Javier Cámpora both seeing straight red cards. Gimnasia live to fight another day; their first leg will be on Sunday, in San Juan at 19:15 local time. The return will be played next Thursday.
Club Atlético Belgrano 2 – 0 Club Atlético River Plate
As soon as I saw, an hour and a half before the game, that Rogelio Funes Mori was in the starting lineup for River Plate, I resigned myself to knowing the best River could hope was a 0-0 draw. Leandro Caruso had four goals from four starts during the Clausura prior to Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Lanús. After one goalless game, he was dropped in favour of a striker who’s barely shown a sign of knowing what the goal looks like this year. River started chaotically, marked woefully from set-pieces, and fell behind thanks to a moment of idiocy from Adalberto Román, whose hand ball gave Belgrano a penalty César Mansanelli made no mistake with.
Belgrano’s second came from a corner, underlining River’s sloppiness. Shortly after, a few idiots ran onto the pitch – an action that could easily have shaken River’s players up even more, or got the game called off altogether with the scoreline (if AFA’s normal policy had been followed) allowed to stand. Oddly, River reacted far better than Belgrano. For the remaining 35 minutes, they had their hosts pushed right back – but inevitably, couldn’t find a way through, with a close striker from Erik Lamela – who shouldn’t have still been on the pitch after ref Néstor Pitana missed him punching an opposing player – ruled out because Paulo Ferrari had been offside during the buildup.
River now have to win the second leg by two goals (an aggregate draw is enough to keep them in the Primera). They’ve only scored twice on two occasions during the Clausura, and the last time they won by two was in the second round, 2-0 against Huracán. I’ve always tried to keep a neutral voice on HEGS, ever since I started it (on my Twitter account I necessarily let myself go a little), but I’ll say this now as a River fan: I’m reconciled to my team’s relegation. I just can’t see them getting the result on Sunday.
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Photo taken from ole.clarin.com