Weekend review: ¡River Campeón! and a frankly ridiculous relegation endgame (video)

I’m going to quickly surmise Sunday’s action from the relegation and title battles. First things first: River Plate are the new champions of Argentina, claiming their thirty-fifth Primera División title overall and their first since their return to the Primera in 2012, thanks to a 5-0 thrashing of Quilmes in the Estadio Monumental on Sunday evening. For drama, though, we had the relegation battle. At 3pm on Sunday, the following matches kicked off: Godoy Cruz v Racing; Colón v Olimpo and Arsenal v Atlético de Rafaela. Godoy had a point more than Colón and Atlético, so the maths, compared with the normal division and multiplication required by Argentina’s system, were quite simple.

Godoy Cruz got a 2-1 win over Racing, who had a man sent off about a minute before Godoy’s second goal, and who… well, are Racing. It was never really in doubt so tension was relatively low in Mendoza. But in Santa Fe and Sarandí… oh, boy.

Both the other matches were stuck at 1-1 going into stoppage time – if sides finish level on points, a playoff is used to decide who goes down, remember – until Lucas Albertengo broke through the Arsenal defence in Sarandí and put Atlético 2-1 up. With just two minutes of the season left, Colón were going down and Atlético were safe! TV cameras in Santa Fe treated viewers to tears and lots of hand-on-head lamentations from Colón supporters.

And then in Santa Fe, with ten seconds to go, Colón got a free kick which was hoisted into the box, Olimpo goalie Nereo Champagne blocked Lucas Alario’s attempt… but the ball bounced straight back onto Alario’s knee, ricocheted past Champagne and just inside the post. 2-1 to Colón. Level on points again, and that was how it finished. Colón have had a seriously topsy-turvy season, and will have to go through ninety more minutes of nail-biting before they can finally celebrate safety – or not, as the case may be.

The relegation playoff will be held on Saturday at 3pm in Rosario Central’s stadium. Néstor Pitana will referee.

Shortly after those matches, River took to the pitch in El Monumental knowing a win would hand them the title; Estudiantes were two points behind, with Gimnasia three behind River. The two La Plata sides both lost; Estudiantes 2-1 away to Tigre, Gimnasia 1-0 at home to Boca. Meanwhile, River were making no such mistakes; Fernando Cavenaghi hit two, Gabriel Mercado scored with a diving header, Teo Gutiérrez wrapped things up with a simple finish and Cristian Ledesma made it 3-0 when he scored his first ever goal for the club in his one-hundred-and-eleventh appearance with the most perfectly struck thirty-five yarder you will ever see, before breaking into tears.

On Monday night, Vélez Sarsfield beat San Lorenzo 3-2 in a cracking match in the Nuevo Gasómetro. That win means Vélez leap above San Lorenzo into top spot of the 2013-14 season long table, and as such will go to next year’s Copa Libertadores along with River, the winners of this year’s Copa Argentina, the best Argentine side in this year’s Copa Sudamericana, and the winners of the upcoming Torneo Transición.

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About hastaelgolsiempre

Sam Kelly is an English football writer based in Buenos Aires, specialising in all things Argentina - the national team and the domestic league - and across South America for When Saturday Comes, ESPNFC, The Blizzard, Cube Goal and anyone else who'll pay him. He's also the presenter and producer of Hand Of Pod, the internet's finest - and, it's true, only Argentine football podcast. If you think you can afford him (and you probably can), please feel free to get in touch.
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