Argentine relegation 2011: Huracán down & River hang by a thread (video)

'I know what'll make them play better! Scare the crap out of them!' Nice work, morons.

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.

You can follow the ins and outs during the 2011 relegation playoffs, as well as the latest news from the selección in the buildup to the Copa América direct from Buenos Aires with HEGS on Twitter. If you’ve not signed up yet you can do so here. You can also join the official HEGS Facebook group, to keep up to date with the latest posts on the blog and discuss things with other fans. You’ll find it here. And remember to bookmark Hand Of Pod, our Argentine football podcast, or if you prefer you can subscribe to it on iTunes here.

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15 thoughts on “Argentine relegation 2011: Huracán down & River hang by a thread (video)

  1. sam, totally agree about sunday. i cant see us pulling out of this, especially without ferrari, almeyda, and roman. it tears me apart that that was very possibly almeyda’s last game. the worst way he could have gone out. ive been saying since last week that we came into this situation in the worst possible form. it is hard to see how you could arrive at a relegation playoff in good form, but we came into this with zero confidence and all the pressure in the world on river to perform. i dont know how you felt as you watched this terrible result, but when river walked out on the field today, it didnt feel real to me at all. how many times i said to myself that we wouldnt be playing this game throughout the season and yet, there we were. all night i kept asking myself “how do we go from possibly heading to copa sudamericana next year to this?!” i hope the boys get a good reception at monumental on sunday (which im not entirely sure about) and some how get out of this. i dont want river to become the nottingham forest or leeds united of argentina. plus, its a lot harder to watch second division games here in the states.

  2. re Huracan v Gimnasia, I thought both sides were poor. Considering the start they had, Gimnasia should have had the match won by half time. Amazingly, I thought Huracan played better with nine men than they had for most of the season with eleven. Admittedly, though, this was in a way in which a man injected with huge quantities of steroids, swinging his arms around uncontrollably, is a better fighter than one cowering in the corner, covering his head and screaming ‘don’t hit me’. (Huracan v Lanus or Independiente).

    But I didn’t see an awful lot of difference between 9 men of Huracan and 11 of GELP. Zarate should have had a penalty in the second half and there was plenty of crazy action in the GELP half. GELP should have been able to pick off Huracan on the counter attack at will, there were a couple of occasions before the goal where they had four or five men to one of Huracan, but the moves broke down, because Gimnasia aren’t really very good. I don’t know much (or anything) about SM de SJ, but if they are as determined and organised as Belgrano, then I don’t give Gimnasia much hope at all.

    As for River, I don’t think they will become a Forest or Leeds. They are Manchester United, who went down in remarkably similar circumstances in the mid-70s: ie two years of constant struggle whilst trying to rekindle past glories with faded stars. United had Best Law and Charlton, River fans (and management) spent months obsessing about Ortega and Gallardo, thinking they were the answer to all the problems. Both clubs were dazzled by the star syndrome – and Ortega’s last few years have been just as bizarre and unfortunate as what befell Best 40 years ago.

    What’s strange to think is that two excellent, reliable players whom River let go have just won another Argentine title with a club that isn’t even a ‘grande’.

    Manchester United rebuilt around youth, so that is what River must do. But when you look at it, River’s reputation as a ‘conveyor belt of talent’ is probably false. If we go back over the last 15 years or so, Crespo went on to have a good career, but will never be considered one of the legends of the world game… Ortega’s reputation outside the Monumental is a bit of a joke. (We could all compile a long Youtube vid of his most ridiculous dives, of the sort Lamela was trying to match last night, and the enduring image that most people worldwide will have of Ortega is headbutting van der Sar).

    Aimar and D’Alessandro looked great in the River sides that won things, but never evolved into true greats. For a club with such an attacking reputation, the River product who has gone on to make the most worldwide impact is the most destructive midfielder there is, Mascherano. Cambiasso doesn’t count. (amargo ;-)

    Now they have Lamela and Funes Mori. Where the Funes Mori hype came from, I’ve no idea – even the acknowledged authority on the South American game Tim Vickery got caught up in it at one stage… blimey, Chelsea were tracking him six months ago, now he’d be lucky to interest Anderlecht.

    Lamela orchestrated some beautiful football for River early in the Clausura, when it looked briefly like they might win it. Now he will probably disappear into the middle ranks of European football as a talent unfulfilled, when a couple more years of playing top flight football in Argentina might have been more use. It could still happen – this game is crazy enough to see a complete turnaround, look at Gimnasia v Rafaela in 2009 (the Franco Neill game). But realistically, I suppose River fans need to know that there are genuinely talented new youngsters ready to take up the swashbucking attacking ideal that their club shares with MUFC and cut through the second division like they really ought to. I can’t see Huracan getting back for four or five years at least, but River should have the resources to sweep through that league and be challenging again in 2013.

    Who are the River players most people won’t have heard of yet, and who can get them out of the second division?

    1. Gustao Bou, Manuel Lanzini and Leandro Pírez González (who did play a couple of games at the back recently, and looked good in both) are three that spring to mind. Depends who River keep, though. One thing I will say is that over the last season, they’re sixth in the top flight. When one looks at it like that, if they can just find someone who can score goals they ought to tear the second division to pieces next season. But if the pressure of being expected to get them out of the division is as great as the pressure of staying in the Primera…

      I don’t think the game is crazy enough to see a turnaround. Or rather: I don’t think River are a crazy enough team for it. I just can’t see where the goals are going to come from on Sunday.

      1. Well, I suppose not many people would have considered flinging high balls up to that Peter Crouch-like colossus of a heading specialist Franco Neill a good tactic to get Gimnasia out of their spot a couple of years ago ;-)

      2. I’d add Cirigliano into that group with great potential. If he can build up his upper-body strength, I believe he can develop into a top quality deep-lying midfielder, I like him a lot. Plus, there are a few kids below the surface, like Facundo Quignon, who show great promise. In fact, I think the current crop of River youngsters is one of the best in years, although the jewel of the group is sure to leave to pastures new this summer (Lamela, that is). Indeed, you wonder who else may leave should the unthinkable become reality come Sunday….

        As good as some of them are though, it’s a hell of an ask for these young players to manage this pressure-cooker scenario. When you have a team that just isn’t scoring (with that lack of a prolific goalscorer being their greatest downfall this season) and is so low on confidence due to the bad run they are currently on as well as the pressure from their plight and the fans, it came as no surprise to see them fail yesterday evening.

        1. I’d agree with that, Andy, about Cirigliano. I keep forgetting about him, because Acevedo and Almeyda are there, but every time I see his name pop up I kick myself for not thinking of him.

          Realistically Lamela’s gone for sure if River go down. Pavone of course we know about. I’d imagine we’re stuck with Funes Mori, but who knows – he’s nothing if not a confidence player, and a season in Nacional B might be just what he needs. I suspect we’ll end up with Chichizola in goal, which is fine, and a largely very young side with Almeyda providing the leadership. Ferrari might well stick around. It could easily prove to be the making of a bunch of very promising young players who just haven’t been given many chances by JJ this season…

  3. And another thing… is next year’s championship ‘Apertura’ and ‘Clausura’ split again? And what is this I read on wikipedia about the Copa Argentina? Is there an article on here I missed during my long absence?

    I can’t imagine there will be much enthusiasm for such an artificial competition that will probably attract crowds of a few thousand to each game, with a final played in a two thirds empty Monumental. What is the point, when even the greatest domestic Cup competition of all time was dying a death until Yaya Toure stuck it on a life support machine for a little but longer (until it finally dies with next season’s Saturday evening final….)

    1. Yeah, it’s split next season… why wouldn’t it be?

      I think the Copa Argentina is a great idea, personally. Don’t see what’s artificial about it – every competition has to be invented at some point (in fact this is merely giving a rebirth to a competition that was played a couple of times a few decades ago). I hope it works, and sticks. It’s been done mostly for the TV companies, but it’s an idea I’ve wanted them to think about for years, so regardless of the motivation, I’m prepared to give it a chance.

      Oh, and no there wasn’t an article on it on here at the time, but there will be when it gets closer to actually being played.

      1. I think Grondona has been saying for years that he fancied joining the tournaments up again. I’m the only person I know who likes the current system. If you don’t like the result of one title race, there’ll be another one along in six months time! Yes, it’s artificial, but it’s artificial with tradition now ha ha. ;-)

  4. As a lifelong River fan I’m shocked things have gotten so bad. Wasn’t it only yesterday that Velez was bankrupt and River was challenging for titles?

    Last night was pathetic. Lamela was the only player who had any kind of control over the ball. Sure, he doesn’t know when to pass, but how can he trust anyone else on the field with the way they were all spraying the ball everywhere.. Plus, the coach is sitting on the sidelines crying! CRYING! what!?!? As soon as I saw that on the screen in the 1st half, I knew they were cooked! Plus, even Almeyda lost his cool. So with the coach and captain so fragile mentally, of course Roman is going to be an idiot. Of course they would blame the ref. That performance last night made me feel like they deserve the relegation. Sad times :(

    1. In fairness, I didn’t see them blame the ref. They’re fully aware they’ve no-one but themselves to blame, and I suspect that anger at themselves is what led to things like Carrizo’s confrontation with the fans back at the team hotel after the game.

      And welcome to the comments section, djKianoosh. I still love that photo of yours that illustrates the ‘History’ page here. Just sorry it took last night’s result to get you posting!

      1. Thanks! :) I love this blog though, so you’re right, I should post more comments ;-)

        aguante River por favoooooor!!

  5. Assuming River do go down, if they were to come straight back up would they still have this season’s points in the bag in terms of their average or would they have to start from scratch?

    If they did have to start from scratch then there would be a very real prospect of them not accruing enough points to stay up and getting relegated again!

    Any chance of River becoming a yo-yo club Sam?!

    1. A quote from the ‘Tables’ page of this very blog, Cal (and welcome to HEGS!):

      ‘If a side hasn’t spent the whole of the last three seasons in the division (that is, if they’ve been promoted recently), only results from the seasons they have been there out of the last three are counted.’

      Therefore points gained during the season now ending will still count towards River’s points average if they come straight back up. If that happens, then River’s Promedio tally at the start of 2012-13 will read: 2010-11 Played 38, Points 57; 2011-12 Played 0, points 0; Total played 38, points 57 = 1.5 points per game. Banfield ended this season 4th in the Promedio, with 1.456. So If River were to go down and come straight back up, they’d be in a very good place indeed.

      In any case I doubt they’d become a yo-yo club. A year in the B will hopefully see a lot of dead wood cleared out at all levels of the club. If they come straight back up (something I’m not by any means assuming myself!) I think they’ll be in a considerably stronger position institutionally than they are at present. Of course what kind of playing staff they’ll have, and what their financial situation will be like, is an entirely harder matter to predict, and does have a big bearing on that.

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