Buenos Aires Times

sports Supercopa Argentina 2018

River Plate beat rivals Boca Juniors to win Supercopa Argentina

In perhaps the most important football match in Argentina this year, the in-form Xeneize were no match for a surprisingly ruthless and effective Millonarios side.

Friday 16 March, 2018
River Plate celebrate winning the 2018 Supercopa Argentina after beating rivals Boca Juniors 2-0 in Mendoza on Wednesday night.
River Plate celebrate winning the 2018 Supercopa Argentina after beating rivals Boca Juniors 2-0 in Mendoza on Wednesday night. Foto:NA

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River Plate Campeón. Those three words have been everywhere in Argentina since the Millonarios beat their bitter rivals, Boca Juniors, in the final of the Supercopa Argentina on Wednesday night in a packed and heavily-secured neutral site, the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza.

The final score between Argentina's two largest clubs, 2-0, was a decisive victory for a club that is currently wallowing in the depths of the Argentine Superliga table against a Xeneize side that until Wednesday was flying high: Boca had lost only once since the league's summer break and currently sit comfortably in first place, eight points ahead of Talleres.

Boca, the form favorites ahead of the whistle, had 15 shots to River's 7 and 66 percent of possession, but couldn't find a much-needed breakthrough. That was in part due to the stellar performance of River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani, who made several key saves in the second half as Boca pressed for a goal. The two goals came from an 18th-minute penalty put away by Gonzalo Nicolás Martínez and a deft finish just yards from goal by Ignacio Scocco with 70 minutes gone.

The Supercopa Argentina is a one-match competition that pits the Argentine first division league winner against the winner of the Copa Argentina, the country's domestic elimination tournament. Organized by the Argentine Football Association, it has been played each year since 2012. This was River's first Supercopa win, having lost out twice before, and the third Supercopa Boca Juniors have lost. Before this year, the two giants of Argentine football had not met in the competition.

The reactions to the match, arguably the most important in Argentine football this year, were extreme, to say the least. For the duration of the 90 minutes, the world of Argentine football stopped spinning. Almost as soon as the final whistle blew, the match and all its drama were quickly memified. Days later, fans and pundits still can't stop talking about it. One Xeneize fan attempted suicide in the aftermath (he survived and is now hospitalized).

From a tactical perspective, aging Albiceleste and Boca legend Carlos Tevez was roundly criticized for his almost nonexistent effect on the game. In contrast, Argentine sports media is now abuzz with speculation, rumors, arguments and theories surrounding Armani's involvement with la Seleccion after a fantastic individual performance. Though it was an unexpected result based on current form, River have the upper hand when it comes to overall non-league trophies won and head-to-head results in recent years.

From a safety perspective, the event was largely a success. Though few, if any, away fans are permitted to attend most Argentine football matches, the AFA increased security presence and protocols to permit fans from both teams to each fill half of the stadium in Mendoza. River Plate sang two controversial songs: one expressing the wish that Boca fans would die, the other criticizing AFA president Claudio "Chiqui" Tapia, a known Boca supporter.

Though both will now return to Superliga play this weekend, their respective league positions won't count for much. Regardless of the competition or circumstances, the superclásico is for some more important than any final or league-deciding fixture. This was both, and it will take both sides a long time to forget their joy and their pain.

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