2011-05-19

Argentina Futbol madness: Boca - River

Written by Tom Robinson
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The Superclasico between Boca Juniors and River Plate is widely considered the biggest and most fiercely contested football match in the world, and this Sunday the two giants of Argentine football met once more to slug it out in the Bombonera.  As you might expect tickets were hard to come by and, wanting to keep both my kidneys, I had to make do with watching the match on television. Coming into the match, the situation was delicately poised.  River, despite a fairly strong start to the campaign, had stumbled of late and due to poor performances in previous seasons found themselves lurking dangerously close to “la Promocion”, a fact which Boca fans took great pleasure in reminding them (one fan was even dressed up as the phantom of the second division). 

In turn Boca had struggled to find their form this term but saw this as the perfect opportunity not just to get one over their bitter rivals but to kick-start their faltering season and take the pressure off their under-fire manager Falcioni.  So the stage was for a tantalising showdown with the customary vociferous support from the passionate fans. The game started began at breakneck pace with both sides pushing forward in what promised to be an eventful game. 

And it was Boca who drew first blood in truly bizarre fashion.  A harmless corner was sent in and Carrizo, the River goalkeeper, somehow contrived to fumble the ball into his own goal under virtually no pressure at all.  Certainly an error that the blue and yellow side of Buenos Aires he will let him forget. And just two minutes later Boca struck again.  The River defence, still in disarray, failed to clear their lines from a free kick and the ball found its way back to legendary striker Martin Palermo who, onside and unmarked, coolly looped a precise header over the stranded Carrizo, clearly flustered from his earlier mistake.

This sparked wild celebrations inside La Bombonera.  Not only did it give Boca breathing space it also brought Palermo within two goals of becoming the all time leading scorer for Boca A dream way to cap off what will be his final Superclasico as he is retiring at the end of the season. However, it wasn’t all one way traffic as River also had their chances.  Funes Mori had a penalty shout turned down and Pavone stung the palms of Lucchetti with a fierce shot.  At the interval it remained Boca 2 River nil but still with everything to play for. River came out after the break with a renewed vigour, led by the much coveted starlet Erik Lamela, and came close again with Lucchetti reacting well.  The one time the keeper seemed to be beaten, he was saved by Monzon, coming to the rescue to expertly hack the ball off the line, when Pavone thought he’d done enough to give River a lifeline. 

At the other end, Mouche wasted a couple of opportunities to put the game to bed from promisingly positions.  In the dying embers of the game, tempers came to a boil and a square up between Clemente Rodriguez and River captain Matias Almeyda resulted in both being sent off, Almeyda clashing with riot police as he incited the Boca fans by kissing the River badge, an act that certainly won’t endear him any more to the Xeneizes. Thus the game came to a close with Boca triumphing in convincing fashion and leaving River in a precarious position.  An emotional Palermo left the field with Riquelme  and with the bragging rights until the next time the two sides face each other.  From a spectator’s point of view the game displayed all the traits synonymous with the argentine game; an electric atmosphere, passionate fans, skill, latin flair, goals, and of course a dose of controversy.  In summary, this year’s Superclasico underlined yet again why it is such a hugely important and exciting sporting occasion unrivalled by anywhere else in the world.

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