Almost a year to the day from Boca’s triumph over Rosario Central in the final of the 2015 Copa Argentina, Central returned to Cordoba last night with a score to settle. On that day, a debatable disallowed goal and a wrongfully awarded penalty cost Central its first taste of silverware in 20 years, and referee Diego Ceballos his career as a Primera Division referee. Last night, Coudet’s team got its revenge on the return to the Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes, defeating the reigning champions 2-1 thanks to first-half goals from José Luis Fernández and Germán Herrera.
It’s rare for there to be a quarter-final with so much at stake. For Boca, the Copa Argentina represented its last potential route into the Copa Libertadores and the final shot at silverware this year. For Central it meant even more. Not only revenge, but also redemption. The last two years in a row, it faltered at the final hurdle (fairly large hurdles due to poor officiating, granted) and returned to Rosario as runner-up. It will have felt like a final for both teams. And just like the final 363 days ago, the game wasn’t short of controversial incidences.
After a tense opening half hour, the deadlock remained unbroken, largely thanks to a wonderful save from Boca keeper Guillermo Sara, and, at the other end of the pitch referee Patricio Loustau’s decision not to award Boca a penalty following a blatant handball from Central center-back Dylan Gissi. You know that saying “two wrongs don’t make a right”? Well, it kind of feels like they do on this occasion. Remember this?
That penalty gave Boca the lead in the final last year. No such luck this time round. A few minutes later, Boca players were surrounding the referee again, demanding a second card for Cristian Villagra for his two-footed challenge on Pablo Pérez. Loustau didn’t see it that way, somehow. A blatant yellow, if not red. “El Kity” certainly got away with this one, and the Boca players have every right to feel aggrieved.
With Boca players still reeling from the two incidents which they believed should have given them a goal and a man advantage, Central took the lead as Luis Fernández met Montoya’s floated cross with an absolutely textbook volley into the corner of the net.
Absolute corker, take a bow son.
Central’s next goal wasn’t so pretty. Montoya was again the provider, drilling a low shot into Sara, who made a complete hash of it and put it on a plate for Herrera to tap the ball into the back of the net from point-blank range. 2-0 at half-time, and that’s the way it stayed until Darío Benedetto headed in a consolation for Boca with the last touch of the game.
It could have been a very different story for Boca, which struck the woodwork twice with thunderous strikes from Carlos Tévez and Jonathan Silva. If things had gone differently in that 12-minute period which saw the two contentious decisions and the two decisive Central goals, the scoreline could have been quite different. Mind you, Central had the same complaints 12 months ago. Karma, revenge, fate, whatever you want to call it. Boca’s cup defense is over, and Central’s campaign to go one better than the past two seasons and take Boca’s crown will continue.