Friday, June 14, 2024

SPORTS | 17-05-2024 11:28

Thrilling start as Argentina's top flight kicks off (again)

There was certainly no shortage of goals in this first round of Liga Profesional fixtures.

The thrilling conclusion to the Copa de la Liga is already beginning to feel like a distant memory. Exactly five days after Estudiantes downed Vélez Sarsfield on penalties to take the title, the Liga Profesional had already begun, with an opening weekend that proved just as gripping as the tournament that preceded it.

There was certainly no shortage of goals in this first round of fixtures. Forty, to be precise, for an average of 2.86 a game which outstripped all but one of the previous 14 rounds of the Copa. Admittedly that number owed a fair bit to two teams who seemed to have forgotten how to defend entirely during the short break between tournaments.

Racing Club missed out on the play-offs by the narrowest of margins despite finishing their campaign with a 4-0 demolition of Belgrano in the last fixture, and it appeared they would pick up where they left off in the Liga as they raced into a 4-1 lead against the very same opponent. This time, though, Belgrano were made of stronger stuff in front of their own fans in Córdoba.

Aided by an inexplicable Academia rearguard collapse they smashed three goals in just seven minutes to draw level, before goalkeeper Nahuel Losada stopped the scoreline from bloating even more absurdly with two huge saves in the final minutes. “We are slapping ourselves in the face,” Racing coach Costas bemoaned after the game, which compounded the Avellaneda club's misery after crashing out of the Copa Argentina to Talleres de Remedios Escalada and dropping points in the Sudamericana.

All in all it was a weekend to forget for most of the Big Five. Boca Juniors folded to defeat away to Atlético Tucumán, one of the Copa's worst performers, while San Lorenzo's first visit to Deportivo Riestra – located literally across the road, 40 metres away from their own Nuevo Gasometro – also ended in a loss. Carlos Tevez, meanwhile, saw his Independiente side collapse to a 3-1 home reverse at the hands of Talleres, a result that according to some reports leaves the Boca legend on the verge of unemployment unless the Rojo experience a swift change in fortunes.

Copa surprise package Godoy Cruz also had a tough start, going down to Barracas Central. The Mendoza side, though, stood out for their bizarre off-field spat with broadcasting veteran Fernando Niembro. The commentator took it personally when the Tomba released a lengthy statement berating (unnamed) media figures for shortening their name to 'Godoy,' and revealed that he had apologised to the club president while also justifying his slip – “I thought calling them Godoy and the other Barracas was different enough.” While we are at it: it's Atlético, not 'Tucumán', and never call Central, Rosario (or Córdoba, since we have gone down this rabbit hole. But do not call Barracas 'Central'). You are welcome.

The one Grande who did come out of the opener with a smile was River Plate. Pressure was mounting on coach Martín Demichelis after surrendering winning positions in the last Superclásico and midweek in the Libertadores against Nacional, but there was no danger of a repeat on Saturday as his team breezed past Central Córdoba. River will look to keep up their winning start to the season this weekend at home to Belgrano, further boosted by Tuesday's 2-0 victory over Libertad which confirms their participation in the Libertadores last 16 for the tenth consecutive season. The timing could also not be better for Demichelis, given the recent news that predecessor Marcelo Gallardo's short yet wildly lucrative time in Saudi Arabia has come to an end, leading to inevitable calls for the Millo idol to come home on the first available flight. The current coach should still have plenty of time left on the bench if the victories keep coming, and his defence of the Liga title he lifted with River in 2023 certainly is off to an encouraging start.

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Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards


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