Friday night football: starting where the Torneo Inicial left off?

Friday evening’s matches brought one draw – a 0-0 between Vélez Sarsfield and Tigre in front of an empty stadium in Liniers – and two home wins; 1-0 to Estudiantes against Arsenal de Sarandí, and more surprisingly, 2-0 to Olimpo against the champions San Lorenzo in Bahía Blanca. The Torneo Inicial saw home advantage count for a lot more even than it normally does in any league, but it was hard to escape the thought that that had something to do with the identities of the home and away sides; a lot of stronger sides were at home to relatively weaker sides. I thought the Final might change that, with the reverse fixtures… but after Olimpo’s win over San Lorenzo, I’m not so sure.

San Lorenzo, with Edgardo Bauza making his managerial debut, had their chances, it’s true – at least judging by the highlights I’ve just seen on ESPN. I’m currently in Pilar, Buenos Aires Province, covering the Argentina v Japan tennis match in the Fed Cup, and had no choice but to go out for dinner and miss their defeat to Olimpo. All the same, Olimpo managed four straight wins against relatively weak opponents (River Plate, Rosario Central, Godoy Cruz and Colón de Santa Fe) at the end of the Inicial, but I was expecting San Lorenzo to send them crashing back down to earth tonight. The fact that they lost to two goals conceded in quick succession in the middle of the second half makes me wonder whether Argentine sides have simply forgotten how to play away; any thoughts, dear readers?

Estudiantes v Arsenal and Vélez v Tigre were the kind of matches we’ve seen plenty of in recent seasons in Argentina; close games, not dull but not especially exciting either, that could have been decided by one goal either way – and in the case of the former, were. Vélez – another side with a manager making his league debut, though José Flores already won the Supercopa Argentina last Friday night – were the only home side not to get a win, and coincidentally (I’m sure) were also the only one who weren’t allowed to let fans into the stadium – crowd trouble at the end of the Torneo Inicial means Vélez as well as All Boys and Boca Juniors have been given stadium closures for their first home matches of the Final, which for the other two punished clubs means next weekend (Boca will host Belgrano, All Boys will welcome Estudiantes to Floresta). Even then, it took an uncharacteristically competent performance from Tigre goalkeeper Javier García to keep the match goalless. Surely he’ll revert to form before long…

Here are the three goals from the day.

Estudiantes 1-0 Arsenal

Note: it’s all over the place, this video; the amazing miss at the start and the goal both came in the first half, whilst the shot from outside the box that hits the post was in the second half, even though it’s shown here as happening in between the other two highlights.

Olimpo 2-0 San Lorenzo

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