It wasn’t long ago that Boca Juniors looked like a team on the brink of crisis. With their exit from the Copa Argentina against Rosario Central, and a generally inconsistent start to their Primera Division campaign, many began to question whether Guillermo Barros Schelotto should continue to lead the side. But over the last month, Boca has confirmed its status as the in-form team in Argentina, putting together a 11 game unbeaten run in the league.
The latest game in that run took place this Sunday against Racing Club, an Argentine giant who shares Boca’s “Top Five” status. Boca came out on top in a six-goal thriller that saw them leapfrog Newell’s into second position at the table, after the side from Rosario lost at home to Banfield, who now has consecutive wins over the two sides who have sat at the top of the league for the majority of the season.
With top goalscorer, Darío Benedetto, absent through injury, you’d be forgiven for doubting whether Boca would be able to retain the firepower that had seen them become the league’s most prolific goalscorers in recent weeks. But Boca made up for the absence of their star number nine with goals from Walter Bou (2) and Carlos Tévez – in addition to an own goal from Racing left back Emanuel Insúa. When they drove forward Barros Schelotto’s men looked like an incredibly well-oiled unit, and much of the side’s chemistry can be attributed to the recent return of the influential captain Fernando Gago who was arguably Boca’s star man.
Racing simply could not deal with the creative flair of Gago and his teammate Tévez, and the former was at the center of the action for the first goal of the match, putting in left-back Fabra after a classy one-two with Bou.
Meanwhile Tévez looked like a man on a mission in the first half, on two occasions taking on the Racing defense solo and coming within inches of scoring. It was, however, the man deputizing for Benedetto, Walter Bou who doubled Boca’s lead before half-time, capping off a typically fluid Boca move with a neat finish into the bottom corner past Racing ‘keeper Agustin Orion.
Minutes later, Racing almost pulled one back through the eventual scorer of both its goals, Lisandro López. After a classy chested touch from Aued’s cross, Licha blazed the ball just wide of the top corner of Guillero Sara’s net. And Racing’s star man was almost left to rue that missed opportunity as Walter Bou should have made it a third for Boca seconds later down the other end of the pitch, having been played in one on one against Orion by Rodrigo Betancur.
Just two minutes into the second half, however, Bou made up for his miss to add his second. After Tévez had his shot deflected, the striker found himself in acres of space in the Racing area with the floundering Racing defense nowhere to be found. What on earth were they doing?
3-0. Game over, right? Wrong. Lopez, who looked dangerous all night, soon had the ball in the back of the net, meeting Oscar Romero’s beautifully floated ball in behind the Boca defense with a volleyed finish past a helpless Sara.
And Licha had another before long to make it 3-2 after Tévez had squandered a simple chance to put the game beyond Racing reach.
How Carlitos? How?!
Tévez, however, did make amends for his horrendous miss, restoring Boca’s two goal advantage, twisting and turning his way around Racing right-back Ivan Pilaud after Pavón had come close having been played in by yet after majestic Gago ball.
And that was the final nail in the coffin to end what was looking like turning into a remarkable Racing fightback. Among the weekend’s other fixtures, Independiente ended their recent rut, defeating River 1-0 in Avellenada, making this twelfth round of fixtures a perfect weekend for Boca and ideal preparation for next week’s Super Clasico in El Monumental.
Boca’s great rivals would have been counting on a win against Independiente, who was at the wrong end of whopping defeat last weekend by Racing themselves. But now momentum is well and truly with Boca in the lead up to the game at El Monumental. River now sits in 8th position in the league 6 points behind Boca. Marcelo Gallardo and his men, however, are yet to taste defeat so far this season at El Monumental, making next’s weekend’s fixture against Boca a particularly juicy affair.
River has the tightest home defense in the league, conceding just 3 games at their home in Nuñez, while Boca are the league’s most rampant side with 27 goals in its opening 12 fixtures. Something like that old cliché of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, this is a tough one to call and I won’t be sticking my neck out and making a prediction. After victories against San Lorenzo and now Racing, if Boca do leave El Monumental triumphant, it would be the third and most significant win from three incredibly challenging fixtures against three of their greatest rivals, laying down a huge marker in the race for the title. It’s an exciting time in the Primera División, especially if you’re a Boca Juniors fan.