The Superclásico of Argentine football is considered to be one of the most important clashes in the world of football – some might say it is the most important one, River and Boca fans will definitely be among them – because of the intensity with which both teams live their rivalry. Both the players on the pitch and the fans at the bleachers.
The latter never fail to provide: they fill their respective stadiums every single time, the way in which they receive the players onto the pitch will always be worthy of being immortalized in a picture and framed, and will chant so hard they practically will not be able to speak during the rest of the week.
That’s not always the case with the former. But lucky for all of us, it was yesterday. In the 200th edition of the Superclásico, River and Boca definitely played a game that lived up to its fame. There were several passages of good football, there were great goals, players were sent off, there was controversy and, above all, there was intensity throughout the 90 minutes of play.
Boca ended up winning by a 2-1 score, but the result could have easily been different. In fact, River dominated the better part of the game. But in football there’s a saying: “the goals that are not scored in one goal are scored in the other one,” and this case was an example that perfectly illustrated that.
The match can be divided in three pars, marked by two breaking points: the two red cards shown to River’s Ignacio Fernández first, and to Boca’s Edwin Cardona second. Before the first event, the local team had its rival completely cornered against its box, although it didn’t manage to open the score. Boca answered with some isolated plays – shots from Cardona that River’s keeper, Germán Lux, deflected – but River was clearly in control.
Until the 37th minute, when everything changed. It may sound overly dramatic, but that how the fans lived it. Ignacio Fernández tried to dispute a ball with Cardona, but ended up tattooing his studs on the Colombian’s chest.
Predictably, referee Néstor Pitana sent him off. And to complete a deadly combination, Cardona himself opened up the score with a magnificent free kick.
This way, Boca ended up the first half 1-0 up and with one more player on the pitch. All variables indicated that Boca would begin to overwhelmingly dominate the match, but that wasn’t the case. River had to clear shots within the first 15 minutes of the second half, but again was unable to score.
The second breaking point came in the 16th minute, when Cardona tried to shake off Enzo Pérez with his arm, grazing him in the face.
Pérez put up an Oscar-worthy performance – there are a lot of those in Argentine football on a weekly basis – and feel flat on the ground, as if he had been shot in the face. Pitana interpreted it had been an intentional blow and sent Cardona off (it wasn’t, and if it was, it wasn’t hard enough for him to be sent off).
With an even number of players in the pitch, River increased its dominance and was finally able to reflect it on the scoreboard. On the 23rd minute, captain Leonardo Ponzio took an excellent shot from around 25 meters and beat keeper Iván Rossi.
However, and against all odds, the next goal wasn’t River’s. Again, in an isolated play, Pablo Pérez sent a precise crossed ball that Uruguayan Nahitán Nández finished with one touch.
River continued trying, but all its attempts were unfruitful. The clock ran out and Boca took the 200th Superclásico. With this victory, the Xeneize increased its lead in the head-to-head to 74-64 (62 draws) and in the league, which completely dominates: it’s got a 12 point lead over its eternal rival and nine over the teams that are in second position.
River, on its end, capped what was arguably its worst week in a really long time: it lost the semi-finals of the Libertadores Cup – the South American equivalent of the European Champions league – in an incredible manner, wasting a three goal lead, and yesterday lost the most important game it had left in the year. What could have been a new great season for the team coached by Marcelo Gallardo is now shaping up to be a big disappointment.
Now, it’s last goal will be to recover psychologically from these two massive blows and go back to winning, to finish the year in the best way possible and start the next one with renewed aspirations.