Saturday, November 16, 2019
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SPORTS | 25-10-2019 07:00

Marcelo Gallardo continues to haunt Boca as inquest gets underway

Five times Boca have lined up against Marcelo Gallardo, with three different coaches, in cup competition. And five times they have ended up on the losing side.

If Jan Hurtado's late goal served for anything on Tuesday evening, it was to delay Boca Juniors' latest inquest for a few more hours. The Venezuelan may have smoothed a baying Bombonera with his consolation strike during the Xeneize's latest defeat to arch-rivals River Plate, leading to applause rather than jeers from the stands for the vanquished hosts, but it barely made the setback less painful.

For it was River who advanced to the final of the Copa Libertadores, Hurtado's solitary effort failing to cancel out the Millonarios' 2-0 first-leg win at the Monumental ,which made the return match almost a foregone conclusion. Marcelo Gallardo's men were muted, perhaps mindful of that healthy yet far from irreversible advantage, and far from their best, but they will care little. The outcome of the tie, and its wider implications, is all that matters: five times Boca have lined up against Gallardo, with three different coaches, in cup competition; and five times they have ended up on the losing side.

Even if this time round the pain was alleviated by the late fightback, it is still an untenable situation for the Boca faithful – and one that is likely to have consequences that reach far beyond this week's 90 minutes of mean, stilted football action.

The position of coach Gustavo Alfaro in particular is bound to come under scrutiny. The former Arsenal de Sarandí and Huracán boss has suffered two big reverses in the space of less than six months, this Libertadores failure coming hot on the heels of Boca's humbling at the hands of Tigre in the Copa Superliga final.

Alfaro seemed to acknowledge that his position at the Bombonera is in peril in a remarkably frank post-match press conference.

“I want to finish the matches we have left, go home and get my life back,” he told reporters. “If everything is awful because you don't win the Copa Libertadores, Boca have been failing ever since 2007. And that is not the case. I feel proud of all the time I have spent at Boca.”

Alfaro is far from the only Boca figure who could be heading for the exit. Carlos Tevez, whose relationship with the coach has nosedived in recent months, is also out of contract in December and, at 35 and with his football powers waning, may well decide to relinquish his dream of securing one more Libertadores title for the Xeneize prior to retirement. Tevez aside, and as with defeat in the 2018 Copa final, this week's disappointment is likely to precipitate another hefty turnover of playing staff once the Superliga enters its summer recess.

But it is in the boardroom where the shockwaves unleashed by Boca's failure might resonate loudest. Barred from running for president for a third term, current chief Daniel Angelici's hopes of continuing a political line that stretches back to Mauricio Macri in 1995 now look extremely tenuous. Jorge Amor Ameal, a former Macri ally and head of the club from 2008-2011, is running against Angelici's anointed heir on a fiercely critical ticket for the elections planned for December 8 and did not hold back following the events of Tuesday night.

“The current administration is finished,” Ameal fired. “Now we will discuss what kind of club we want and what are the steps to follow, which will be totally different to those in place.”

The spectre of Gallardo's River continues to claim scalps and cause chaos at the Bombonera and everyone at Boca, from the playing staff up to the president, could be forgiven for wanting to see the back of the Millonario coach as soon as humanly possible.

Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards

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