Are River’s Complaints About Patronato’s Winning Goal Justified?

Denis Rodríguez was sent off for his complaints following the controversial drop-ball incident.

Photo via La Nación.

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Patronato ended River’s unbeaten start to the season this weekend in the most controversial of ways.

In the dying moments of the match, with the score at 1-1, referee Mauro Vigliano called for play to be stopped due to an injury to Patronato keeper Augusto Batalla. From the resulting drop-ball, River midfielder Andrés D’Alessandro looked to return the ball to the opposition but was tackled by Damian Lemos before he could do so. Moments later, Patronato had the ball thanks to a well-placed Lucas Márquez header.

Denis Rodríguez then saw red for his strong-worded complaints to Vigliano.

Let’s take a look at the video:

The incident in question in the lead up to the winning goal

So were Rodríguez and his River team-mates right to feel aggrieved? In a word, yes. But then again, it’s not quite as simple as that. Why? Well because Patronato didn’t strictly break any rules in the lead up to the goal.

There’s nothing written in the rules about how play should proceed after a drop-ball but it’s generally accepted that whoever was in possession in the lead up to the drop-ball is given the ball back by the opposition, typically to the goalkeeper, as D’Alessandro intended. Or at least that’s what he claims. The man who robbed him of the ball, Damian Lemos, tried to shift the blame onto the River Player. “He told me that he was going to kick the ball wherever he wanted, so I got in there before he could.”

Whether or not he did actually say that, D’Alessandro summed up the whole problem with the incident after the game. “There was no fair play out there today. It’s difficult to explain. There are codes of conduct and today those codes weren’t there,” he said. Actually, D’Alessando explained it pretty well and should have considered precisely that before he and Rodriguez complained to the ref. The referee works by the rule book, and not by unwritten laws of “fair play.” At most, you could accuse him of lacking a bit of due sympathy for Rodriguez and his teammates, but he certainly did nothing wrong.

The fault lies entirely with the players — something Patronato manager Rubén Forestello fully accepted. “The only thing we can do is ask for forgiveness. We just wanted to get on with it and win the game.”

Sure, that’s understandable when it’s 1-1 in the 90th minute and you’re bottom of the table, looking for your first win of the season. But somehow it doesn’t seem likely River fans will see it the same way. Forestello’s apology won’t be much of a consolation either. Márquez’s controversial goal means River drop down to fifth in the table and, to add insult to injury, they now sit below fierce rivals Boca Juniors on goal difference. This one’s going to hurt for a while.