A Riquelme-less Boca were thrashed 3-0 by Quilmes in the opening weekend of the Argentine season this past weekend, while River endured a disappointing return to top flight football, going down 2-1 at home to Belgrano – the very team that relegated Los Millonarios just over one year ago.
Boca, unable to hold the ball at the first step of post-Riquelme era, were not helped by the early sending off of Santiago Silva after El Tanque aimed an acrobatic roundhouse kick into the chest of Sebastián Romero. By then, Martín Cauteruccio had already given Quilmes the lead, drifting off the shoulder of veteran defender Rolando Schiavi before firing an unerring finish past Boca new boy Oscar Ustari.
It was a disappointing debut for Ustari, who was repeatedly left exposed by a back four that Clarín labelled ‘a fundamental problem.’ Pablo Garnier doubled the hosts lead, drifting in completely unmarked from the right, before Cauteruccio took advantage an Ustari spill to round off the scoring five minutes from time.
“We can have no excuses,” said Boca coach Julio Falcioni. “We faced a team that attacked at pace and exploited the spaces on the field.”
Most worrying for Boca was how much space there was to exploit. Guillermo Burdisso will arrive from Arsenal this week to fill the Juan Insaurralde-sized hole in Boca’s backline, but it may take more than that to get Boca back to anything like the form they showed in the first half of last season.
River, meanwhile, suffered an equally unsatisfactory afternoon. Hopes are high at El Monumental this season, with the club making some very smart signings, but old foes Belgrano crashed the party, taking the lead shortly before half-time when Cesar Carranza capitalised on a Luciano Vella slip to cross for Lucas Melano to head home.
Carranza then doubled Belgrano’s lead just a minute after the break, lifting his finish over Daniel Vega in the River goal. Of all River’s reinforcements for the season ahead, the return of young playmaker Manuel Lanzini from a loan spell with Fluminense in Brazil could yet prove their most important arrival, and the diminutive midfielder got River back on track with fifteen minutes remaining, curling his free-kick beyond Juan Olave. “[Lanzini] has that spark that every team needs,” said coach Matías Almeyda, “I loved it when he went to play as an enganche.”
Another Lanzini set piece almost brought an equaliser, but Gabriel Mercado was denied a debut goal by Olave. The Belgrano custodian then became the villain of the piece when he clattered into Martín Aguirre five minute from time; as Rogelio Funes Mori fired his penalty high over the bar, Olave was sent off for his over exuberant celebration.
“River is a club contaminated,” said a disgruntled Almeyda. “There are always interests that are outside of me. I'm only here for results… it’s difficult to work in such a negative environment.”
Elsewhere on opening day, Velez got their season off to a better start with a 3-0 win over Argentinos Juniors in Liniers, Lucas Pratto adding to a first-half brace from Sebastián Domínguez. Reigning league champions Arsenal, too, got off to a winning start after Union goalkeeper Oscar Limia fumbled Nicolás Aguirre’s free-kick into his own net.
Saturday’s action kicked off with Atletico Rafaela holding Racing to a 1-1 draw in Avellaneda. César Carignano put the visitors ahead, but their lead lasted less than two minutes as veteran defender Fernando Ortiz celebrated his Racing debut by heading an equaliser. Former Argentine international Jose Sand, however, suffered a less successful debut for La Academia, twice missing from the penalty spot.
Ivan Moreno y Fabianesi’s first-half strike was enough to give Colon victory over Lanus in Santa Fe before Saturday’s action ended with a dire goalless draw between Newell’s and Independiente
David Ramirez scored to celebrate his return to Godoy Cruz on Sunday, but Iván Borghello bundled in an equaliser to earn a share of the points for All Boys. A new look San Lorenzo saw off San Martin, Franco Jara marking his debut with what turned out to be the winner, while the weekend’s action drew to a close on Sunday night, when Guido Carrillo heading a late winner for Estudiantes at Tigre.
Results & Highlights